PA opposes review of Digital Economy Act

The Publishers Association [PA] has attacked the culture secretary's decision to allow communications watchdog Ofcom to "delay" the Digital Economy Act.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced yesterday [1st February] that Ofcom is to assess whether the Act's reserve powers to enable courts to block websites dedicated to copyright infringement are workable, with the review expected to come to an end around Easter. These blocking measures would need secondary legislation in order to be implemented.

However, Richard Mollet, PA chief executive, said: "In order for the digital marketplace in publishing to continue to grow, it is vital that we have the means to tackle copyright infringement online, such as those set out in the Digital Economy Act. But this review represents yet another delay in implementing the Act's provisions."

He added: "Whatever the outcome of the review, we urge Ofcom to come to its conclusions as quickly as possible. And if Ofcom finds the measures in the Act are unsuitable, it must be tasked with proposing a viable alternative."

The review is a result of public comments submitted to the Your Freedom website, launched by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in July 2010 and closed in September that year. The site enabled the public to suggest laws and regulations they thought should be removed.

On announcing the review, Hunt said: "The Digital Economy Act seeks to protect our creative economy from online copyright infringement, which industry estimates costs them £400 million a year. I have no problem with the principle of blocking access to websites used exclusively for facilitating illegal downloading of content.

"But it is not clear whether the site blocking provisions in the Act could work in practice so I have asked Ofcom to address this question. Before we consider introducing site-blocking we need to know whether these measures are possible."