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Government piracy plans forge ahead
20.11.09 | Catherine Neilan
The government is recommending changes to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act to enable "remedies" to be developed "quickly and flexibly" to cope with any future methods for unlawfully copying content.
The department for business, innovation and skills, and the department for culture, media and sport announced the proposals jointly this morning as part of its Digital Economy Bill.
The bill also contained a number of long-mooted proposals, including making Internet Service Providers (ISPs) responsible for taking action against peer-to-peer filesharers and the "three strikes" policy, whereby persistent offenders could have their internet access cut off.
Pertinent given recent focus on the Google settlement, the bill also included changes for copyright licensing, creating an "extended" system to make it "simpler and quicker for licensing societies to make content available online to consumers and to support innovative commercial services that rely on copyright material". As part of this, the bill proposes that orphan works be "unlocked" for public and commercial use.
Business secretary Lord Mandelson said: “On current definitions our digital economy accounts for nearly £1 in every £10 that the whole British economy produces each year – so our creative and digital industries are key to Britain’s future economic success. This bill will give them the framework to develop competitively and make the UK a global creative leader.
“Better protecting our creative communities from the threat of online infringement will ensure existing and emerging talent is rewarded and will bring new choices for online consumers.”
Culture secretary Ben Bradshaw added: “This bill is a key part of the government's active industrial strategy and will maintain and build on Britain's leading position. It includes measures to ensure universal broadband, the protection of music, film and other creative content and the future of quality local and regional news. The market will not provide these things, only government action can.”
But critics of the plan are less enthusiastic. Posting on his blog BoingBoing.net, Cory Doctorow described the move as "the beginning of the end for the net in Britain".
He said: "This is as bad as I've ever seen, folks. It's a declaration of war by the entertainment industry and their captured regulators against the principles of free speech, privacy, freedom of assembly, the presumption of innocence, and competition.
"This proposal creates the office of Pirate-Finder General, with unlimited power to appoint militias who are above the law, who can pry into every corner of your life, who can disconnect you from your family, job, education and government, who can fine you or put you in jail."
Dan Sabbagh at The Times added: "There is the well-worn debate about whether internet pirates who breach copyright by sharing music or film should have their internet connection cut. Or more accurately, the bill proposes a scheme in which somebody might be cut off in 2012, after another policy review.
"OK, so it is not coming in very quickly, and it will probably fail to stop much piracy, but there is an important point of principle worthy of debate: is it fair to cut people’s internet connections or not? Those who believe, rightly, that cutting an internet connection is disproportionate, have ample opportunity to try to tie down the bill on this point alone."