Big tech accountability? Read the backstory to today's policy debates here on Iptegrity.

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'

£5 million a year for Ofcom's DE Act responsibilities - but Mr Vaizey was a little hazy about what it will pay for. He referred to monitoring activities. Ofcom's own slides reveal an expensive programme of p2p monitoring.

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The Communications Minister Ed Vaizey confirmed to Parliament that the budget for the telecoms regulator Ofcom, in respect of the Digital Economy Act (DE Act), is £5 million a year. That comes on top of £5.8 million for setting up its DE Act operations. The figure in itself is not new, as it was reported last year in a government document. However, Mr Vaizey added a statement on what the £5 million will cover. He said the £5 million a year is to cover Ofcom's "responsibilities" under the DE Act, which include :

"monitoring and enforcement

Read more: Ofcom's DE Act £5 million-a-year - for exactly what, Mr Vaizey?

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is reviewing the DE Act's web blocking clauses. But  the review does not seem to be  limited to the text of the law, and raises new policy issues which are not in the text that was passed by Parliament.

 

UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, to  review of the web blocking clauses in the Digital Economy Act. These clauses -  - 17 and 18 -  rely on secondary legislation to come into effect, and would give British courts the power to order the blocking of websites on application by rights-holders.

 

Mr Hunt  is claiming to be conducting the review in response to citizen opposition expressed on a government webiste - entitled  Your Freedom  - which sought to understand laws which people wanted repealed. On that basis, he has enlisted the support of the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

 

 However, the tone of the review announced by Mr Hunt yesterday, is quite the opposite. The aim of the review is not to understand the democratic

Read more: DE Act: is Jeremy Hunt extending it by the back-door?

The European Commission questions whether the DE Act cost-sharing is allowable under EU law. And Ofcom suggests that ISPs could give credit vouchers to the rights-holders if they send fewer warning notices than they forecast.

The Westminster Parliament is being asked to pass a law which has been critiqued by the European Commission and is potentially flawed. The matter relates to a Statutory Instrument (SI) setting out the sharing of costs between ISPs and rights-holders under the Digital Economy Ac copyright enforcement (graduated response) measures. It was laid before Parliament last week - as already reported on iptegrity.com. It's full title is the "Online Infringement of Copyright (Initial Obligations) (Sharing of Costs) Order 2011".

The (SI) was notified to the European Commission by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills under the usual procedures. However, the Commission has come back with a number of questions for BIS, which ought to be addressed befor Parliament can pass an opinion on it.

In a nutshell,

Read more: DE Act: should Parliament pass flawed ISP costs order?

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten.

I am a tech policy specialist, published author, post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Currently working on UK Online Safety Bill.

Recent media quotes: BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian, Politico.  Panelist: IAPP,  CybersecuritySummit. Parliament and Internet. June 2022-July 2023 w/ Open Rights Group.

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.  

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