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Digital Britain

Britain was traditionally influential in European policy for telecoms policy. It was a British Commissioner, Lord Cockfield, who established the Single European Market. Britain led the way in the establishment of a competitive European telecoms market. However, in leaving the EU, Britain has lost the ability to influence European policy in the future, and in 2022, Britain sadly finds itself no longer a major power, but instead has become an embarrassment for British representatives in international fora. The government is sunk deep in corruption, it blatantly lies, its law-breaking has led to mistrust among former allies. There are multiple posts, articles, and tweets to support this claim.

It's in this context that the British government is preparing a law to address regulation of the Internet. It's a law that will have far-reaching implications for the way the Internet will function in Britain, and will impact on web platforms overseas. I am referring of course, to the Online Safety Bill. As I write this, at the beginning of 2022, the Bill is only in draft form. How will it end up? Interestingly, in going through my old posts, I note that wrote in 2015 about a similarly -named Bill. It was the predecessor to this one. It never became law, but many of the provisions in it appear to have been taken forward into the 2022 version.

A number of the articles in this section discuss a previous policy, called the Digital Economy Act 2010. This was a law that mandated broadband providers to work with the music and film industries, in order to enforce copyright on the Internet. It was forced through in the dying hours of the Parliament before the General Election of May 2010. The measures involved the use of network technology to sanction users, with implications for the neutrality of the network, and the 'mere conduit' status of the network provider. The law was deemed unworkable and never implemented. That is a lesson that needs to be taken on board by all policy-makers in this field.

If you like the articles in this section, you may like my book The Closing of the Net.

If you are interested in the Digital Economy Act and copyright enforcement policy, you may like my previous books A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms and The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the 'Telecoms Package'

Members of the British Parliament have called for Google to be regulated as a dominant player in the Internet industry. The call follows a complaint by a British-based price comparisons company to the European Commission.

In debate misleadingly entitled as 'Government Policy on Net Neutrality', British MPs debated whether Google should be regulated in the context of its dominance as a search engine. But taking a different turn from the usual platitudes of big content companies who complain about Google, in this instance, their concern was for the health of small businesses online, especially those which start up new services and try to compete againstl the big search engines.

The debate was prompted by the complaint by a British company, Foundem, to the European Commission DG Competition. Foundem operates a price-comparison service for online shopping. According to the MP Dominc Raab, Conservative Member for Esher and Walton, Foundem has alleged that Google downgraded its search results, and acted anti-competitively in a way which was financially negative for Foundem.

Mr Raab said that the effect was to suppress Foundem in Google search results. Mr Raab pointed out that the alleged treatment of Foundem would be sufficient to bury and kill off many businesses. He accused Google of deliberately

Read more: Calls for controls on Google in UK Parliament

Digital Economy Act, Judicial Review, Day 3  - Friday 25 March

 

The High Court in London was told last week that  a chilling effect is "a price properly to be paid for the greater aim of protecting copyright owners interests" as the British government's barrister defended the Digital Economy Act against  claims by BT and Talk Talk that the Act is  unenforceable and disproportionate.

 A key tenet of the government's defence  was the rights of copyright owners represent a legitmate aim for legislation and come before other rights, such as those of ISPs or Internet users.

It was the third day of  a hearing which forms part of a Judicial Review of the DE Act. On Days 1 and 2,  BT and Talk Talk had  set out their grounds supporting their claim, including that the government failed to notify the DEAct to the European Commission prior to putting it before Parliament, that it breaches the E-commerce directive and the E-privacy directive, and  that it has implications for freedom of expression, including an anticipated ‘chilling effect' ( see previous articles on iptegrity).

The government's barrister took less

Read more: Chilling effect is a 'price worth paying' says government barrister

BT and TalkTalk v Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

BT - "You cannot justify national measures on the optimistic hope that they might just work.".

 

 **This report is my own view, having spent the day in court.**

 

On day 2 of the court case at the High Court in London which will determine the legality of the Digital Economy Act, BT tackled the arguments against the DE Act regarding the   dis-proportionality  of the copyright enforcement measures.

 

BT argued that the measures address only a fraction of the problem which they claim to solve, are based on a flawed calculation of their effectiveness, based on a false set of assumptions. In particular, BT  sought to ‘put a cricket ball through the stump  of the government's cost /benefit analysis'.  Moreover, BT suggested that the government misconstrued  one of its main justifications for the Bill.

 

BT claims that the government gave out  a misconceived

Read more: Day 2 DE Act Judicial Review: was the Act built on hope alone?

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.  

The politics of copyright

A Copyright Masquerade - How corporate lobbying threatens online freedoms

'timely and provocative' Entertainment Law Review