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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'

UK record companies have asked the government to amend copyright law, imposing a liability burden for Internet Service Providers in respect of copyright infringements.

The BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) which represents the big four record labels, is demanding that the government should make ISPs liable for copyright infringement on the Internet. They want the ability to sue ISPs on the basis that broadbaand subscribers are using the service to download copyrighted music.

Their demand - together with their proposed wording for the new piece of law that they want - is to be found in the BPI submission to the recent UK government consultation on peer-to-peer filesharing. Specifically, they want the government to incorporate a new article in the Copyright Designs and Patent Act (CDPA), which would obligate ISPs implement technical measures to prevent copyright infringement. The BPI's proposed new Article 97B of the CDPA contains the following text:

Read more: UK music companies demand ISP liability in copyright law

A UK report on digital Britain, which will reveal the UK government verdict on file-sharing and 3-strikes policy, has been delayed, apparently due to a "ministerial quagmire", according to a report in the Times Newspaper this week.

It is not clear exactly what the "quagmire" consists of, but if various leaked comments to different media are anything to go by, it would seem there is disagreement at the highest level on how to deal with the issue. According to The Times article, the Digital Britain report was to have been released on on Monday, and it is now expected to come out tomorrow.

The report has been preceded by the publication of contributions to the BERR consultation on peer-to-peer file sharing earlier this month. BERR has

Read more: UK polarised on file sharing and 3-strikes

Report from the ISP Future Content Models and Enforcment Strategies Summit 2008, Kensington, London 7/8 July 2008

In light of today's announcement by the UK government, the words of Kiaron Whitehead, legal counsel for the BPI, are ringing a very sombre tone. Speaking at the ISP Future Content Models conference, just 2 weeks ago, he outlined a 3 strikes proposal, and made it clear that the BPI is prepared to sue ISPs who don't comply. His words certainly put a different complexion on the word 'voluntary' - it is about as 'voluntary' as the press gangs that a couple of centuries ago found ' recruits' for the army.

Here are some excerpts from his presentation:

'ISPs have an obligation to work with us. The government must help facilitate that process.'

'The debate is no longer about whether something should be done, but how it should be done'

'ISPs have a legal responsbility to enforce... first an educational letter, second temporary suspension, third cancel the account. Ultimately, it may be possible to implement a technical solution. ISPs need to test implementing that technical solution. For ISPs who refuse, we are left with one option - litigation.'

'The government will assist us in one, talking; and two, putting in place legislation to ensure that ISPs are clear as to their responsibilities.'

'Evidence (against users who are alleged to have infringed copyright) has to stand up to rigorous testing. The BPI evidence collection is robust'.


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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor, with expertise in online safety, technology and human rights. 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