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Three Reasons It’s Back To Square One For UK’s Digital Copyright Strategy

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Three Wednesday announcements mean the UK’s approach to digital copyright infringement may be majorly halted and started over, despite months of wrangling over controversial legislation.

1) ISPs BT (NYSE: BT) and TalkTalk have been granted a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act, which was passed by the last, Labour government in April to digital rights’ lobbyists chagrin.

2) The new government launched a review of how intellectual property law should change to better encourage innovation.

3) A parliamentary committee which scrutinises the government’s media and culture legislation launched its own inquiry in to protecting IP rights online, apparently intending to unpick the Act itself.

It’s a confluence that, after a bitter couple of years industry debate, is likely to throw everything back in the air again. Following election in May, new culture secretary Jeremy Hunt told paidContent:UK he would not repeal the Digital Economy Act, which would have compelled ISPs to hamper the most flagrant abusers’ connections. But the new government now has an opportunity to put its own imprimatur on proceedings.

Though the entertainment industries had lobbied hard for graduated-response provisions, many others were unhappy with both the content of the Act and the limited time available for discussing it prior to parliament’s pre-election dissolution in April. But now a reboot may be in the offing – there are already signs of tinkering ahead, with an implicit belief that the Act’s provisions are insufficient…

— The review announced by the government’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills is to examine “how the intellectual property system can better drive growth and innovation”, including how rightsholder frameworks create “barriers to new internet-based business models“. The previous government had commissioned its last IP review, from FT editor Andrew Gowers, in 2005.

— And the parallel inquiry “into the protection of intellectual property rights online” by the media, culture and sport committee – which is led by a Conservative chair – seems designed to critically unravel the Act during its first full parliamentary scrutiny hearings.

The committee is promising to “consider” the online IP rights framework contained in the Act “and the extent to which it is a reasonable and sufficient response to the challenges facing creative industries and individuals in digital markets”. The committee will consider the Act’s “practicality and likely effectiveness“, whether it is fair, associated costs, any additional measures and, “more broadly, the scope for additional activity and new approaches to ensure that original work is appropriately rewarded in the online environment”.

Indeed, if terms of reference like that don’t suggest the committee has already made up its mind, then it may not take much further persuasion – the committee will also consider the government’s own IP review, which is being led by former BBC, FT and Independent executive Ian Hargreaves.

Media regulator Ofcom had been in the middle of figuring out the practicalities of implementing the Act. But entertainment industries and consumers will each now get further, drawn-out opportunities, in feeding consultation to the new reviews, to reprise the ideological slanging match in which they engaged over the last two years prior to the Act’s passing.

» Need a Digital Economy Act refresher? Check our Quick Guide To All 45 Measures.

4 Responses to “Three Reasons It’s Back To Square One For UK’s Digital Copyright Strategy”

  1. @ Crosbie: You are completely and utterly wrong. Copyrights, the droit d’auteur, is a fundamental human right expressly declared so by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It has been so since the first one was written, 200 years ago. Its a right protected by laws in every civilized country. Whatever someone creates, writes, directs, etc. belongs only to him and the UDHM expressly demands that his moral and economic rights be actively the powers of this world.

    Content owners are the ones to be protected when its property is stolen. Users have no rights, other than to acces the content in the conditions set by its owner. Laws are set to protect people’s rights not to take them away and the digital world is no exception.Your mail is protected but if you make a wrong use of it, you’ll be thrown in jail and your right to privacy will not help you avoid it.

    Do your homework please…

  2. Given that copyright derogates from a human/natural right (the right to copy from an individual’s right to liberty), it’s not a matter of succession but antithesis. Either you have human rights, OR you grant privileges that derogate from them for the pleasure of the state and its beneficiaries – with pretexts claiming public interest.

    The only ‘economic right’ is the liberty to exchange labour or goods in a free market. To call a monopoly a right is a contradiction in terms.

    The only coherent conclusion is that the privilege of copyright should have been abolished along with slavery as an unethical aberration of the same era.

    ‘Digital copyright’ is an oxymoron. You can have digital technology and a public free to communicate seditious propaganda embarrassing to the UK government and CIA alike, or you can have a few printing presses, whether newspapers, vinyl LPs, or acetate movie film, subject to strict monopolies enforced by the successors to Queen Anne’s Stationers’ Company.

    There is no messianic reform of copyright that ‘repairs’ it to cope with Pandora’s Internet. Either you turn the Internet off, or you imprison and persecute people at random for engaging in the modern equivalent of folk music and cultural intercourse.

    Liberty or persecution?

    There is no ‘balance’.

    Sure, you can institute an ‘ISP levy’ to steal money from people to compensate the publishing corporations for the loss of monopolies Queen Anne should never have granted them in the first place, but this not so much a ‘solution’ as compounding the corruption that copyright has been revealed to be.

    ‘Back to Square One’ is abolishing anachronistic privileges and restricting law to the protection of natural rights (life, privacy, truth, liberty).

  3. In the hierarchy of norm Copyright defense, an economic right, should come after Human rights and the fundamental right to privacy and freedom of expression. More in :
    France is struggling with its HADOPI law and the impossibility of ‘securing network. The Anonymous have demonstrated what could be done online and how BIG corporations were unable to protect their websites. How in the UK, even after the cost share 75-25 for ISPs could it be justified the every single account holder should pay for few ‘infringer’ would they be occasional of commercial downloader. Interesting to follow the judicial review. More to come