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Digital Economy Bill - dealing with copyright infringement
Friday 20 November 2009 11:28:58 by Andrew Ferguson

Today 20th November 2009 sees the content of the Digital Economy Bill announced, with the various sections available and assorted comments by members of the Government on the BIS website (warning some parts of the site appear slow at the time of writing this (10:45am)). We have split the bill out into its constitute parts to make it easier for people to digest, and avoid confusion.

One thing to ensure people are aware of is that while some press coverage has suggested the 50p broadband levy/tax is not happening, and while it is not part of the Digital Economy Bill, it is expected to be detailed in the Finance Bill at a later date.

Copyright infringement and how to make copyright laws fit for a digital age was a corner stone of the Digital Britain report, and by far has been the issue generating the most vocal response from the public and industry. Today clears up some of the confusion, but of course until the Bill has entered the statute books it is open for debate and change.

  • A provision for 'orphan works' to be legally used, even though copyright owner cannot be identified or found.
  • Streamlining of rights clearance. Collecting societies (with some safeguards) will have a mandate to license works and collect fees on behalf of rights holders who have not signed up to that society. Rights holders can assert their right to opt out of this arrangement.
  • The maximum fine for criminal infringement of copyright and performers rights to be raised to £50,000. It is important to note this does not cover areas like downloading material from file sharing systems for personal use, though if burning those files to DVD and selling them you then enter the world of criminal law.
  • The Secretary of State will be given the power to be able to amend the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) for the purposes of preventing or reducing online copyright infringement. The idea being that the digital world changes at a pace much faster than the legislative one, and flexibility is required.
  • Two obligations on Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the first is to send notification letters to customers who are linked with an alleged on-line copyright infringement (as identified by the rights holder), and secondly to record the number of notifications each customer receives and pass these onto rights holders in an anonymised format upon request. The idea being the rights holders can then apply for a court order to identify the account/user and take targeted legal action against the most serious infringers.
  • A reserve power will be introduced that can be used to impose technical measures on an account such as bandwidth capping, or temporary account suspension in the event that the initial obligations do not have the desired effect on serious infringers.

Compared to what has been covered in the press previously the proposals in the bill seem somewhat more targeted at those who engage in copyright infringement the most, rather than resulting in people who have downloaded one music track getting letters and their broadband cut off. How well the letter warning system will work depends greatly on how good the rights holders are at identifying people; the general public will not take kindly to being accused of sharing content illegally if they really have not. Therefore, the rights holders need to take great care in not abusing the letter system. Additionally, one hopes that the bill on its passage through the house will cover the issue of privacy, i.e. that the tally of bad marks held by the service provider is kept securely and is not used for marketing purposes (e.g. customers with too many bad marks receive a poorer service or are encouraged to move to another provider to reduce a providers costs in handling the letters). In light of the mobile phone company staff selling customer records, the issue of security and privacy for this data should be high on the agenda.

Of course the hope with this legislation is that people will reduce the amount of material they download illegally (i.e. free) and spend more money on buying the content legally. The digital economy is apparently worth some £16bn and copyright infringement is estimated to cost the music industry £180m and the film/TV industry £150m in lost revenue. In the current economic environment it seems unlikely that people will spend more on music and films rather, they will simply decide to live with less digital content or seek free legal means to obtain/view it.


Posted by pigfister over 7 years ago
son basically the media industry big boy's don't want to pay to litigate for the civil crimes & are passing the cost onto the UK tax payer.

what happened to the digital bil that was going to allow us to, time & format shift or did the media industry stop this in favour of charging us per use?

a government controlled by the corporations is called fascism!
Posted by pigfister over 7 years ago

# Sony BMG Music Entertainment
# Warner Music Group
# Universal Music Group


# Sony Pictures
# Warner Bros. (Time Warner)
# Universal Studios (NBC Universal)
# The Walt Disney Company
# 20th Century Fox (News Corporation)
# Paramount Pictures Viacom—(DreamWorks owners since February 2006)
Posted by pigfister over 7 years ago
If Sony payola (google it) wasn't bad enough to destroy indie competition you have this:

Is it justified to steal from thieves? READ ON.

RIAA Claims Ownership of All Artist Royalties For Internet Radio

"With the furor over the impending rate hike for Internet radio stations, wouldn't a good solution be for streaming internet stations to simply not play RIAA-affiliated labels' music
Posted by pigfister over 7 years ago
and focus on independent artists? Sounds good, except that the RIAA's affiliate organization SoundExchange claims it has the right to collect royalties for any artist, no matter if they have signed with an RIAA label or not. 'SoundExchange (the RIAA) considers any digital performance of a song as falling under their compulsory license. If any artist records a song, SoundExchange has the right to collect royalties for its performance on Internet radio. Artists can offer to download their music for free, but they cannot offer their songs to Internet radio for free.
Posted by pigfister over 7 years ago
So how it works is that SoundExchange collects money through compulsory royalties from Webcasters and holds onto the money. If a label or artist wants their share of the money, they must become a member of SoundExchange and pay a fee to collect their royalties.'"
Posted by ayeomans over 7 years ago
Coincidentally those copyright loss figures from the Digital Britain report are each approximately 50p per month per family.

I wonder what the cost of the proposed policing works out to be?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
There is more on the cost sharing in the actual bill, but it takes time to figure it out.

As for people making multi-post comments, please refrain from doing so, we run a traditional bbs system for longer interactive discussions on topics.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago

Get real. It's giving sweeping powers, many of which are going to - on their own - cost more than even the absurdly inflated figures used by the content industries.

andrew - And when you fix it so people can stay logged in, people might even want to use it.
Posted by frompton over 7 years ago
Surely copyright infringement is a social issue. Lots of people clearly don't respect copyright - but why?

Why is it an issue for the Digital future of this country? Why is this holding back work on upgrading the network and why is my tax money being spent on discussing it?

It's up to the private companies to do reports and try and understand why. Copyright infringement goes beyond someone using a file sharing application to download the latest x-factor reject album, so why are the big boy music/film companies getting all the attention?
Posted by pigfister over 7 years ago
@ andrew


it's hard to squeeze the media industries gatekeeper status down to 600 words, they want a slice of every pie & all media to have to pass through them which is why they constantly block indie creations from ever getting air time.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
bbs - bulletin board system our broadband forums
Posted by meldrew over 7 years ago
It is a pity that the government have involved themselves in this when it basically a matter of market forces versus technology. There are so many places to get free music from,without using P2P, words fail me. Firefox now includes a grabber so that you can save music just by listening to it!
Posted by wifigeek over 7 years ago
"Secretary of State Peter Mandelson is planning to introduce changes to the Digital Economy Bill now under debate in Parliament. These changes will give the Secretary of State (Mandelson -- or his successor in the next government) the power to make "secondary legislation" (legislation that is passed without debate) to amend the provisions of Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988). "

This is worrying. A loophole to come up with any crappy laws they want and pass them in via a backdoor! vote these idiots out next time!
Posted by otester over 7 years ago

Does anyone even really use that still?
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
So everyone has to pay to police the few (and no I don't mean 2) that break copyright law? Get real.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
>>> Trades in 100 DVD Movies >>> Rents and copies 200 DVD movies with the cash from trade in...... Internet?? Who needs internet to commit piracy? Stupid laws by stupid people.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Posted by digger78 over 7 years ago

its all about the money...enough said
Posted by otester over 7 years ago

Exactly, saves me loads of bandwidth (M1 exchange) just doing Blu-Ray rental -> Rip.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
What boggles the mind even more is how they think they are going to catch copyright infringers in areas like Swindon which has recently been stated a complete wireless service will be available..... Good luck to the tools policing that even if they cut you off after 3 warnings, just nip down the shops and buy another wireless dongle... Totally clueless and as usual not thought through at all. I imagine serious pirates are laughing at this more than worrying about it.
Posted by jasperx over 7 years ago
Of course the record industry would look pretty stupid if they were the biggest copyright infringers of all.

Record industry faces liability over `infringement'
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