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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'

What should be done with Openreach, the mechanism for competition in UK broadband? The regulator's announcement was a cautious 'leave it as it is'. Here we consider the other options. Divest Openreach from BT? Would public ownership be in the national interest?

Today the UK regulator Ofcom has unveiled its conclusions in a 10 year review of the UK telecommunications industry. At the centre of it all is Openreach, the British Telecom division that controls competitive access to broadband customers around the country. The burning issue is whether Openreach should remain part of British Telecom, or whether Ofcom should force them to separate. It would seem that the regulator will stay more or less, with the status quo. It's also being reported that BT is dangling a £1billion carrot in front of the regulator.

However, the policy question is about the national interest in an internationally competitive broadband infrastructure. The government's policy

Read more: UK telecoms review - is Openreach too hot to touch?

***Breaking news *** 4 strikes deal *** Digital Economy Act without the backing of the law***

A so-called 'voluntary' deal is close to being agreed in the UK between the Internet Service providers (ISPs) and the music and film industries for a system of notices to be sent to Internet users who are alleged to have downloaded copyright-protected material from non-licenced sources or 'pirate- sites. This is the deal that Minister Ed Vaizey previewed in Parliament earlier this year, which he called VCAP -Voluntary Copyright Alert Proposals.

Little is known yet about the deal, which was revealed on (leaked to?) a BBC Radio news programme. The BBC is currently the sole source - I cannot find any other information and the companies concerned have not put press releases online - however, it looks like they've tried to broker the Digital Economy Act without the backing of the law and without the involvement of Ofcom and scrapping the independent appeals body. Here's what is known about it.

Read more: UK ISPs & music industry broker 4-strikes copyright anti-piracy deal

Blink and you'd miss it, but there is a tiny little Bill on Intellectual Property being discussed in the UK Parliament this week. The Bill has nothing to do with copyright or the enforcement of it (only patents and design rights) but guess what? There are calls for Internet copyright enforcement to be included in it. Could they, and should they, slip in measures like criminal penalties and increased intermediary liability, into the IP Bill mid-process, without having done the relevant consultations and contrary to EU policy?

***Updated Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th January. See below.***

Read more: Should copyright enforcement be in the IP Bill?

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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