Government publishes Digital Economy Bill

The Government has published the Digital Economy Bill which includes measures to tackle illegal file-sharing.

If passed, the Bill would oblige ISPs to contact persistent unlawful file-sharers and keep a record of the amount of notifications made to help rights holders take civil action.

The Government could intervene and enforce technical measures, such as temporary account suspension, if it deems action taken by ISPs is “not sufficient” – although offenders wouldn’t face criminal action.

The Bill also proposes an amendment to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 to enable it to protect against new forms of illegal digital distribution.

A summary of the Digital Economy Bill reads, “We recognise that technology moves at considerable speed, and while many-to-many (such as peer-to-peer) forms the bulk of today’s problem with the online infringement of copyright, that may not be true in the future.

“This power [to amend the 1988 Act] will provide the Government with a flexible approach to dealing with other online copyright infringement issues, so that emerging threats can be addressed quickly and in a targeted way,” it continues.

The Bill also set out plans to unlock orphan works, defined as “previously unusable cultural content”, where the copyright owner is unknown or can’t be found, extend public lending rights to include digital audio such as e-books, and give Ofcom extra duties including assessing and reporting on the country’s communications infrastructure every two years.

The Bill acknowledged that domain-name abuse, such as cybersquatting, had increased in the UK and that more legislation is needed to ensure the “efficient and effective” management and distribution of internet domain names.

It was confirmed that the controversial 50p ‘broadband tax’ was being held over for inclusion in next year’s Finance Bill.

For more on this story read next week’s new media age

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