Thursday 4 August 2011

UK DEA creeps forward without site-blocking

Yesterday the UK Government published its response to the report of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth. Though more persuasive than the report itself, the response essentially accepts the Google-inspired reforms proposed by Hargreaves. Without irony, the response prefaces its radical proposals by saying, "The Review identifies two particular difficulties in the IP field: a near-total lack of high-quality evidence on some issues and an overabundance of effective lobbying." Your lobbynomics, my evidence...

Apart from expressing a general disdain for enforcement, however, Hargreaves (and hence the response) had little to say about the Digital Economy Act, the basis for the impending UK Graduated Response. One point does emerge, however: following receipt of a hand-wringing study by OFCOM, the Government will not bring into force the site-blocking provisions of the DEA. Given the reputed opposition of the security services, this blogger always expected the section to remain a dead letter, and so it has proved. (One wonders whether they will seek to undermine the use of section 97A of the 1988 Act for the same purpose.) 

As a consolation, the Government indicates in its new IP Crime Strategy that the UK Intellectual Property Office will "draw together existing work and develop an action plan on tackling counterfeiting and criminal piracy online", including pirate web sites. Given the substantial failure of the 2004 IP Crime Strategy, blamed by some on the UK IPO's lack of enthusiasm, right holders may find this less than reassuring.

Most important for this blog was the paper also published yesterday by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport: Next steps for implementation of the Digital Economy Act. This contains the welcome news of a change of position on subscriber appeals. It is now intended that there will a returnable £20 fee for the making of an appeal against a notification letter. This should discourage vexatious appeals. 

Traditionally the friend of the content industries, DCMS adopts a more positive tone towards the concerns of the copyright sector. It states that OFCOM's initial obligations code (the implementation of the notification system) will be published "soon". DCMS hopes that the first notification letters will be sent to subscribers "by the end of 2012".

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