ORG parliamentary and policy update/2013-w05

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is the update for the week starting 2013-01-28.

Official Meetings

Jim Killock attended the first governance Board meeting of CREATe in Glasgow and Peter Bradwell spoke at the CREATe launch conference on Friday.

Jim met Richard Fuller MP, Clive Betts MP and briefed Graham Evans MP's staff. Peter met Alun Cairns MP and spoke to John Hemming MP.

Consultations and departments

(n.b this is not strictly related to digital issues but in theory could cover them, alongside other issues)

The Crown Prosecution Service closed its consultation process on 'Concurrent Jurisdiction' on 31 January 2013. This refers to where a crime has been committed which involves two jurisdictions, one of which is in England or Wales and the other is overseas. Guidelines that have come into immediate effect state that "each case should be considered on its own facts and merits." It also states that where possible, a prosecution should be brought in the jurisdiction where most of the criminality or most of the harm occurred.


Science and Technology Committee: Open Access

The Science and Technology Committee in the House of Lords held a hearing into Open Access on Tuesday 29 January. The witnesses included Professor Ian Walmsley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research, ASUC), University of Oxford; Professor Matthew Bennett, Vice-Chancellor responsible for Research, Enterprise and Internationalisation, University of Bournemouth; Professor Maggie Dallman, Principal, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Imperial College London, Steven Hall, Managing Director, IOP Publishing; Richard Mollett, Chief Executive, Publishers Association; and Dr Rita Gardner, Director, Royal Geographical Society.

Later on the same day, further witnesses appeared before the Committee. These witnesses are Professor Rick Rylance, Chair of RCUK; Professor Douglas Kell, RCUK Information Champion; David Sweeney, Director (Research, Innovation and Skills), Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE); and the Rt. Hon. David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Science and Universities, BIS.

Home Affairs Select Committee: eCrime

The Home Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons held a hearing on e-crime at Portcullis House on Tuesday 29 January. The witnesses are Tom Ironside, Director of Business and Regulation, British Retail Consortium and Mike Andrews, National eCrime Coordination Manager, National Trading Standards eCrime Centre.

Government Bills

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

On Monday 28 January, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill went through Day 9 of its Committee Stage in the House of Lords. Following this, the Bill has its 10th Committee Day on Thursday 31 January.

Several amendments were debated in the Grand Committee, including the creation of an intellectual property 'tsar', advocated by Lord Clement-Jones, Baroness Buscombe, Lord Smith of Finsbury and Baroness Morris of Yardley. However, there were criticisms of the draft Bill, most notably from Lord Howarth of Newport who, regarding the 'tsar' concept, stated that "everything that is proposed in the amendment for the director-general to do is directed towards advancing the interests of the creators and owners of intellectual property rights. That is fine in itself but there are also, very importantly, the interests of consumers and users."

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara also criticised the private copying exception for not allowing an immediate family exception, amusingly noting that "if my wife buys a CD, she cannot let me listen to it by copying it to my iPod. She can legally copy it to the music system of our car, but only if she owns the car and, by implication, the music system: it will not be legal if I am the registered owner. That will seem pretty daft to most people. There are of course arguments against a family private copying exception, not the least being able to define what is a family, but many will feel that an attempt should at least have been made.”

Parody was another issue discussed during the Grand Committee debate. Baroness Brinton used a contemporary example to illustrate the perceived weakness in the Bill; "Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis did a wonderful sketch a fortnight ago on UKIP and the referendum of Europe using the theme of Gollum in the film of Lord of the Rights. I do not know whether noble Lords heard it, but the theme of the programme was “We wants referendumses.” It was very effective. The problem is that proposed new subsection (3)(b) in Amendment 28DZA would mean that every sketch like that in a fast moving half hour show would have to stop to acknowledge that it was taking both a piece from Peter Jackson's original film and the style of the actor."

As it was the Grand Committee, no vote was held.

Defamation Bill

In late January 2013, amendments were moved on report and one of these amendments, put forward by Lord Phillips of Sudbury and Lord Faulks, focused on Clause 5. The proposed amendment alters the language of the original text and provides a mechanism for defence, as opposed to what can be used to defeat any defence used by an operator, as found in the original text.

Justice and Security Bill

An amendment has been proposed for the Justice and Security Bill that will exempt the Intelligence and Security Committee from the Freedom of Information Act. According to James Brokenshire (Old Bexley and Sidcup, Conservative);

"In addition, amendment 50 adds the ISC to the list of bodies under section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act. The result would be that ISC information—in other words, information supplied to or by the ISC, whether directly or indirectly, or which relates to it—in the hands of another public body or public authority subject to the Freedom of Information Act, was exempt information for the Act’s purposes. Section 23 is the absolute exemption. Any information falling within the terms of the exemption can be withheld without there being a duty to consider the public interest balance that would otherwise come into play under section 2 of the Freedom of Information Act."

Crime and Courts Bill

Schedule 8 of the the Bill adds the National Crime Agency to 23.(3) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, exempting it from the requirements of the Act. According to Jeremy Browne (Liberal Democrat, Taunton);

"We envisage the NCA having a pooled information-gathering capacity, so it would be difficult for freedom of information measures to apply to some parts of the NCA but not others. Information about one part of the NCA will lead to information being garnered about another part, which it would not be in the public interest to disclose."

Mr. Browne also stated that the National Crime Agency will still have to publish an annual report; it will not have to disclose insights into its operating practices or its intelligence findings.

Private Members Bills

Supermarket Pricing Information Bill

On February 1, John Denham's (Labour, Southampton) Supermarket Pricing Information Bill will have its Second Reading in the House of Commons.

Suicide (Prevention) Bill

Also on February 1, the Suicide (Prevention) Bill will have its Second Reading in the House of Commons.

Online Safety Bill

Baroness Howe's Online Safety Bill has had its amendments moved on 1 February 2013, prior to its consideration in committee. Baroness Massey of Darwen has put forward an amendment to Clause 1 that would group violent images together with pornographic; meaning that all violent images must be blocked unless the subscriber 'opts-in' to receive them.

A new clause has also been proposed which would mandate the appropriate Secretary of State to provide mechanisms for parents of under 18s to be trained in online protection.

Debates and questions

Hargreaves Review Question

Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan, Conservative) asked the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport for a breakdown of any analysis the department had conducted on the Hargreaves Review.

Jo Swinson ((East Dunbartonshire, Liberal Democrat) responded:

"The Government's intentions concerning the Hargreaves review were set out in its response to the review which was published in August 2011. The initial response and subsequent publications on the review, such as the copyright consultation and Government responses to consultation—along with their accompanying impact assessments set out the Government's analysis of the Hargreaves review and provide more detail on how the Government intends to implement the review's findings in the light of consultation. "

Therefore, she did not give any explanation to Mr. Cairns but directed him to wear documentation could be found;"All documents related to the Hargreaves review, subsequent Government responses and publications on implementation have been placed in the Libraries of the House."

Copyright Question

Mike Weatherley (Hove, Conservative) submitted a question to Maria Miller regarding the use of fair dealing exceptions to copyright regarding quotations.

In response, Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire, Liberal Democrat) stated:

"The Berne Convention on copyright requires countries to allow quotations to be made from copyright works as long as their making is fair and their extent is justified. In line with this international requirement, the fair dealing exception for quotations will permit fair and reasonable uses of copyright works for purposes such as criticism, review, and commentary. It is for the Courts to determine which uses are fair on a case-by-case basis. Uses which might be considered fair dealing for the purpose of quotation include the use of citations in research papers, the use of titles to identify sources in a bibliography, and the use of titles and short extracts to identify hyperlinks in internet blogs and tweets."

Cybercrime Question

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central, Labour) asked what assessments have been made by the Government on how cyber security will affect network virtualisation.

Chloe Smith (Norwich North, Conservative) responded:

"In developing its ICT Strategy Government works very closely with CESG, the Information Assurance Arm of GCHQ, and the Security Services in order to ensure that the relevant security is considered and employed. This complements the ongoing and routine support CESG provides to the Government on how to protect its networks and detect and mitigate various types of cyber attack."

Intellectual Property Office

Iain Wright (Hartlepool, Labour) asked a question on how often Vince Cable had met the Director General of the Intellectual Property Office in the last six months.

In answer, it was noted that Dr. Cable had not had any formal meetings with the Director General of the Intellectual Property Office in the last six months. However, it was also noted that the Hargreaves Review and copyright extensions were discussed between Dr. Cable and the chief executive of the IPO in July, before he temporarily left his post.

Data Protection Question

Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton, Conservative) submitted the following question to Theresa May:

"how much her Department currently remunerates (a) telephone companies, (b) internet service providers and (c) others annually for data storage; and what estimate she has made of such figures if the draft Communications Data Bill was passed."

Responding for the Home Secretary, James Brokenshire (Old Bexley and Sidcup, Conservative) gave the following answer:

"Payments reimbursing the costs to industry of communications data retention, and provision of dedicated staff to answer law enforcement inquiries, are normally met by the police and other operational agencies requesting the data. The total estimated payment to the communications industry for these purposes by the Home Office for FY 2012-13 is £15 million. 80% of this expenditure is through a pilot project established by the Home Office to ensure value for money and auditing of payments to industry. Under this pilot, a subset of providers are reimbursed directly by the Home Office, with the money then recharged to operational agencies.

It is not possible to break this figure down as requested, as companies may offer multiple services (eg a broadband and a mobile service) but only receive a single payment. Information on the expected costs that would be incurred following future legislation will be included in the impact assessment published to accompany it."

International Developments


According to the BBC, "the Pentagon will dramatically increase its cyber-security staff to counter threats against US government computer networks." It reports that US Cyber Command is likely to expand rapidly over the next few years, potentially representing a five fold increase. Allegedly, three types of forces under Cyber Command will be created: 1) protecting grids managing infrastructure; 2) offensive overseas operations; 3) protecting the Department of Defence's internal systems.

The Washington Post reports that there will be a personnel increase of approximately 4,000. One reason for this increase is quoted in the report:

"a string of sabotage attacks, including one in which a virus was used to wipe dat a from more than 30,000 computers at a Saudi Arabian state oil company last summer."

European Union

Clean IT project

The finished report from the Clean IT Project has now been released. Entitled 'Reducing Terrorist Use of the Internet', it is a "structured public-private dialogue between government representatives, academics, Internet industry, Internet users and non-governmental organisations in the European Union."

It advocates;

1) Increased international cooperation to help to reduce terrorist use of the internet, with the legal framework clearly explained to users, NGOs, authorities and internet companies

2) All such actions must be in accordance with human rights and fundamental freedoms.

3) More internet companies should explicitly state that they will not tolerate terrorist use of their platforms

4) Cyber security awareness and education should be increased and include terrorist use of the internet

5) There should be more ways to easily report terrorist use of social media; many users currently do not report what they believe is illegal

6) A browser based reporting mechanism should be developed to allow easier reporting of terrorist use of the internet

7) Internet providers currently lack the specialist knowledge to determine whether content is illegal and this should be remedied

8) Some orders to remove content are insufficiently specific

9) Governments, internet companies, authorities and NGOs are sometimes unsure of who to contact regarding terrorist use of the internet

10) Cooperation in investigations must be improved

11) Removed content tends to simply appear on a different internet provider; companies should share more information on abuses of their networks

12) Parental and other end-user controlled blocking mechanisms should address terrorist use

13) An academic network that is respected by all stakeholders should perform research to expand upon existing knowledge of terrorist use of the internet

Ancillary copyright

A German proposal for changing copyright law to allow news outlets to charge to display snippets of stories online has received its second reading.

This proposed law, now onto its second reading, has been criticised by Google as a "mad law." The law would require search engines and news aggregators to pay royalties for displaying any copyrighted material, for example in a Google News search. Given that the proposed law is written into the coalition agreement between the governing Christian Democratic Union and the Free Democratic Party, it is considered likely to pass. Google has stated that if the law is passed then it will have to remove German copyrighted snippets from its search results. Google has stated that "the arguments against this law are very strong. The arguments for this law are very week." A proponent of the law has stated that "it is neither “mad” nor will it harm users, the internet, open society or information pluralism."

The UK equivalent case is The Newspaper Licensing Agency Ltd & Ors v Meltwater Holding BV & Ors (2010). Meltwater's appeal to the Supreme Court on an issue of the case is due to be heard in February.

Cloud Privacy Protection

Caspar Bowden has written in a report for the European Union that citizens using US cloud services could be at risk of their privacy being violated. He writes that the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendment Act (FISAAA) allows US authorities to access private cloud data. A partner at Hardbottle & Lewis law firm told the BBC report into the issue that;

"in theory there is a clear threat to the privacy of European citizens, but in reality the fact that it is obscure suggests that the threat isn't as great as it might be perceived."

Next month, a hearing on findings from the European Parliament on the issue has been scheduled.

Law and Legal Cases

New Zealand Copyright Conviction

On 29 January, the New Zealand Copyright Tribunal has issued its first penalty to an individual accused of committing copyright infringement via file-sharing. The individual concerned admitted to one case of infringement but not to the other two. She was fined NZ$616.57. In terms of the punishment, advocacy for the decision of the Tribunal is as follows;

"...the decision sends a clear message to internet users that they can be penalised if they breach the provisions of the Act. At first blush NZ$616.57 may not seem like a high penalty. But for the majority of people, having to pay that fine would be a burden. Certainly, it is far more than the NZ$6.57 that the respondent would have paid if she had downloaded the songs lawfully."

Tech companies

Google Transparency Report

According to Google's transparency report (January to June 2012) Google refused to remove fourteen search results that criticise the police following requests from the police to do. Similarly, Google refused to remove a Youtube video accusing a law enforcement agency of racism, despite being asked to. Since the previous transparency report, requests for content removal have gone up by 98%.

Twitter Transparency Report

According to Twitter's transparency report, there were four court ordered removal requests, two government removal requests with 25 user accounts being specified. No accounts nor tweets were withheld.

In terms of information requests, there were 25 requests for user information in the UK, of which 4% received partial or full disclosure. 27 accounts were identified.

ORG Media coverage

See January press coverage for full details.