The Digital Economy Bill passed through the House of Lords this week after completing its Third Reading. During the debate the Government kicked Lib Dem amendment 120A into touch.
This was the one on blocking of websites illegally containing copyright content and which caused an uprising of the internet industry last week. Lord Young speaking for the Government commented that “the clause was not enforceable and was incompatible with the Technical Standards Directive”.
The Government did commit to proposing a compromise clause that could give the Secretary of State power to “consult on blocking measures”. The debate in full can be found here.
In laymans terms this potentially gives Lord Mandelson (or whoever sits in that seat in a couple of months time) the ability to take power into his own hands… hmm… Not much better than 120A was suggesting in many people’s minds. These things are best handled by court judges, as indeed is the current position in Law.
The First Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons also took place this week and the date for the Second Reading is yet to be confirmed. As I have previously mentioned on a few occasions now due to the shortage of Parliamentary time before the election the Bill is likely to undergo very little scrutiny at the Second Reading before the front benches consider the Bill during wash-up (stitch-up).
Interesting to note that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has also updated its Digital Ecomomy Bill Impact Assessment. The report estimates a cost to ISPS of £290-500 million with a benefit to rights holders of £1,700 million.
The report also admits that the costs and benefits of Clause 18 have not been subject to prior consultation due to the limited time between the introduction of the clause and the finalisation of the impact assessment. In laymans terms what this says is that they haven’t really considered whether this part of the DEB is worth the effort.
A recently leaked Music Industry letter to Rights-Holders discussed the fact that when it comes to pursuing online copyright infringers any cost sharing that might be agreed would be split 75% Music Industry/25% ISPs. I can now see where they got this figure from. Foot – Gun – Bang. They are after 50/50 share of the costs which on the face of it doesn’t seem fair. In fact if the RH benefits is almost £2Bn as suggested and the costs to ISPs are £0.5 Billion there seems to me to be a strong case for RHs to pay all the costs as is, (and I might be wrong here) currently the law.
The perceived benefits to Rights-Holders has also to be taken with a degree of caution here. What they are saying is that if you stop people from downloading music (& movies etc) illegally they will start paying for it instead. It also presupposes that the measures under consideration will actually stop copyright infringement. During the Panorama programme on the BBC this week it was clearly suggested it wouldn’t.
Meanwhile the UK Performing Rights Society for Music, which represents songwriters, composers and music publishers, announced this week a 2.6 per cent rise in annual revenues to £623m and a growth in online revenues from legal licensed digital music services from 72.7 per cent to £30.4m.