Simpsons Solicitors

UK Digital Economy Bill Enacted

April 9th 2010

The controversial UK Digital Economy Bill has just received Royal Assent, after having speedily completed all of its parliamentary stages (second and third readings in the House of Commons yesterday and the day before), with final approval in the House of Lords today. The Bill has been the source of considerable debate in the UK given its impact on copyright owners and users and is likely to have a significant practical impact on the protection of copyright in that country.

The passage of the Bill lead to the removal of a clause relating to orphan works which had been opposed by photographers. The news was welcomed by photographers.

Under the new UK law, ISPs will be obliged to notify subscribers whose accounts have been reported to be infringing, and to keep records of reported subscribers on an anonymous basis. These obligations will be underpinned by an “initial obligations” code approved by the regulator “Ofcom” or, if no such code is put forward by industry for approval, issued by Ofcom on its own initiative. The Secretary of State will have the power to oblige ISPs to implement technical measures to limit internet access for serious repeat infringers, including suspension or bandwidth capping or shaping, following 12 months of the initial obligations.

The Bill allows the Secretary of State to order the blocking of “a location on the internet which the court is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright”.

The BPI (ARIA’s UK equivalent) has welcomed the new law as a means of spurring investment in new music and innovation in legitimate commercial models, particularly in the online world. Geoff Taylor, BPI’s Chief Executive stated: ‘An internet that rewards taking creative risks will mean more British bands enjoying global success, more choice in how to access music online, and more jobs in our fast-growing creative sector.’

It remains to be seen the extent to which similar provisions may be rolled out in other countries.