ORG parliamentary and policy update/2013-w16

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is ORG's Parliamentary Update for the week beginning 15/04/2013

Official Meetings

Jim Killock spoke at UKNOF's meeting on Tuesday about the Snoopers' Charter. ORG convened a meeting with other campaign groups to discuss the Communications Data Bill on Wednesday.

Peter Bradwell attended a meeting of the Midata data protection subgroup on Friday. Peter and Jim met Ben Bradshaw MP on Wednesday to discuss UK copyright policy.

Consultations and Departments

Business, Innovation and Skills

Intellectual Property priorities

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced its priorities for 2013/14 which includes:

Finalise secondary legislation to implement Hargreaves’ recommendations regarding copyright exceptions.
Introduce a secure identification system to facilitate the electronic management of rights by our customers.
Working with police and industry, establish a specialist police IP crime unit capable of tackling infringement and counterfeits on the internet.
With partners, develop and deliver a campaign to build understanding of and respect for intellectual property among consumers and young people.

Royal Mail Postcode Address File

It has been reported that the Postcode Address File (PAF) will remain under the control of a potentially privatised Royal Mail, disappointing Open Data campaigners.

Open Data Institute Chair Nigel Shadbolt commented:

"The Postcode Address File is part of the UK’s national information infrastructure and it should be made available as Open Data. All the evidence is that this will drive widespread public and private value creation and growth."


Home Affairs Committee

The Home Affairs Committee conducted evidence gathering sessions on the 16th April concerning e-Crime policy. Witnesses included Dr Ian Brown, Associate Director of Oxford University's Cyber Security Centre and Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, Sadie Creese, Professor of Cyber Security at the University of Oxford and Director of Oxford University's Cyber Security Centre, David Livingstone, Associate Fellow, International Security Research Directorate, Chatham House, Matt Allen, Director- Financial Crime, British Bankers’ Association and Katy Worobec, Head of Fraud, Financial Fraud Action UK.

Government Bills

Crime and Courts Bill

New amendments are expected to be presented for the Crime and Courts Bill on Monday. As reported by Liberal Conspiracy:

Internet-based media organisations with a turnover of less than £2m or employing less than ten employees will be automatically exempt from the regulator.

Other groups are reporting that the exemption is phrased in terms of blogs, however. Thus it is unclear that small Internet news organisations would be exempt.

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

After having been returned to the House of Commons with amendments the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, according to the progress of the Bill, is currently in the "Ping Pong" stage. The House of Commons has yet to consider the copyright amendments made by the House of Lords. The next Ping Pong stage is scheduled for the 22 April.

Defamation Bill

On the 16 April the House of Commons considered the amendments made by the House of Lords regarding the Defamation Bill. In relation to clause 5 amendment 11 was discussed:

"Amendment 11 provides that the defence in the clause is defeated if the claimant shows that a website operator has acted with malice in respect of publishing a statement. This responds to concerns raised in the other place that situations could arise in which a website operator had acted maliciously—for example, by inciting the poster to make the posting, or by otherwise colluding with him. Although we believe that these situations are likely to be rare, we consider that in circumstances where a website operator acts maliciously, it is right that the defence should be defeated."

Alongside this it was stated that "Amendments 8 and 9 are technical amendments to the regulation-making powers and amendment 10 provides that regulations be made under this clause will be subject to affirmative resolution procedure in Parliament." Taking into account the amendments made it was argued that:

"the Government amendments made during the Bill's passage through the other place assist in achieving the Government's aim of striking the correct balance between freedom of expression and protection of reputation. To conclude, I urge the House to support amendments 3 to 14".

According to the Progress of the Bill the next Ping Pong stage will take place on the 23 April.

Debates and questions

Mobile Phones: Children Question

John Robertson MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Education what recent discussions he has had with mobile device application developers on applications available to buy in the UK which are aimed at children and allow in-app purchases.

Edward Timpson MP, in response, stated that:

"Through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), Ministers have put in place a series of sector-based project groups to address the availability and take-up of parental controls on internet-enabled devices. We have seen a number of manufacturers such as Blackberry and Apple respond by developing systems that can allow parents to restrict children from downloading or using specific apps, including those that allow in-app purchases. in addition we have seen the development of similar tools with this functionality by third parties such as Vodafone and their Guardian parental control software."

Copyright Questions

Kerry McCarthy MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what assessment he has made of the judgements in the cases of SGAE v Padawan and Stichting de Thuiskopie v Opus and their implications for his proposal contained in the Modernising Copyright document published on 20 December 2012 to introduce a private copying exception without compensation.

Jo Swinson MP, in response, stated that:

"The two cases mentioned were taken into account when the private copying measure was developed. All of the measures set out in 'Modernising Copyright' will be implemented in accordance with european and international obligations and relevant court judgements."

Mike Weatherley MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will publish any legal advice he has received on the possibility of introducing a follow-on designs exception into UK law.

Jo Swinson MP, in response, stated that:

"There are no plans to publish such information"

Disclosure of Information Question

Jon Trickett MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many civil servants in his Department have been subject to non-disclosure agreements in each year since 2010.

Jo Swinson MP, in response, stated that:

"The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has interpreted the hon. Member's reference to ‘non-disclosure agreements’ to mean compromise agreements between the Department and individual members of staff, and CoT3 agreements—an ACAS conditional settlement form—resulting from Employment Tribunals. Our records show that 10 compromise agreements were concluded in the period from 1 January 2010 to date. We are unable to provide the data in individual years as this could enable identification of individuals and further potentially breach any agreement the Department has reached on confidentiality of individual circumstances."

International Developments

China prioritises IP enforcement

According to China Daily 'Piracy has long been staining the reputation of China on intellectual property rights protection." As a result the:

"reported end of free downloads of music, which has been confirmed by industry insiders to be under discussion by major international record companies and Chinese music sharing websites, is expected to mark another major achievement in China's battle against piracy."

In late January "Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan called for more efforts to fight copyright infringement and counterfeit products in China". On the 16 April Wan Yongshen was "sentenced to six months in jail and fined 2,000 yuan ($320) after being convicted of illegally publishing the works of Mo Yan, winner of last year's Nobel Prize in literature." The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications stated that "Yongshen published 3,000 illegal copies of Mo's books." The office:

"disclosed 10 most common forms of copyright infringement cases that it fought in 2012. Among them, the most serious punishment handed out was an 11-year prison sentence in Tianjin, while the highest fine was 3.2 million yuan, for a copyright case in Harbin, Heilongjiang province."

Canadian collecting society wages war on fair dealing

The ruling made in [[wikipedia: Alberta (Education) v Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright) | Alberta (Education) v Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright)]] which, according to the 1709 Blog clarified "the test to assess whether use of copyright material for research and private study is "fair dealing"", has resulted in York University in Toronto being sued for copyright infringement. Several Canadian universities "opted out of collecting society Access Copyrights's model copyright licence" with Access Copyright responding by pursuing legal action.

According to Access Copyright "The actions focus on York University, ministries of education, school boards and post-secondary institutions that copy-and promote the copying-of copyright-protected materials without a licence." The legal fronts include:

  • A lawsuit has been launched against York University. It alleges that York's purported fair dealing guidelines authorise and encourage copying that is not supported by the law, and that there is no justification for the university to operate outside the interim tariff.
  • An interim elementary and secondary school education tariff application has been filed with the Copyright Board of Canada. This application seeks an effective enforcement mechanism against the ministries of education and Ontario school boards for their stated intention to stop paying the royalties set by the Copyright Board.
  • A proposed post‐secondary tariff has been filed with the Copyright Board of Canada for the period of 2014‐2017. With this application, Access Copyright ensures the continuation of an existing process at the Copyright Board to establish the royalties to be paid for the use of copyright‐protected content in post‐secondary educational institutions.

Law and Legal Cases

HMRC faces High Court challenge

The human rights group Privacy International, according to V3, has "launched legal action against HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) over its refusal to provide details on potentially unlawful exports of controversial spyware tools made by Gamma International." The Gamma Group "established in 1990, provides advanced technical surveillance, monitoring solutions, and advanced government training as well as international consultancy to National and State Intelligence Departments and Law Enforcement Agencies." Privacy International claims that "Gamma's Finfisher tool has been deployed by governments and secret police in 25 countries, many with a history of human rights abuses." PI's head of research, Eric King, was quoted stating, "HMRC's refusal to provide information to the pro-democracy activists who have been targeted is shameful".

According to the PI website:

"HMRC has categorically refused to provide any details regarding any investigation into Gamma's export practices, arguing it is statutorily barred from releasing information to victims or complainants. The law enforcement agency denies that it has any obligation to be transparent about any activities relating to the potentially illegal exports of british surveillance technology by Gamma international."

It is believed that HMRC has acted unlawfully, either by misconstruing 'the law to justify its evasive practices" or by issuing a "blanket refusal without considering the facts of the case at hand"

According to the latest Lab report the surveillance technology had been sold to 'governments in 25 countries including Bahrain, Egypt, Turkmenistan, and other repressive regimes." Erik King argues:

"In the wrong hands, today's surveillance technologies can have devastating effects, and the public, especially victims targeted by this surveillance, have a right to know what the UK government is doing about it."

Supreme Court refers question of temporary copies to the CJEU

Following on from the decision made in NLA v Meltwater and PRCA whereby it was held that users of Meltwater's news aggregation service need a licence from the NLA in order to receive and read Meltwater's news snippets, the Supreme Court held that it will refer the question of "temporary copies" to the CJEU. According to the 1709 Blog:

"The specific question of whether the copies made on user's computer screens and hard drives when they access and read content online are temporary for the purposes of Article 5.1 of the InfoSoc Directive was appealed to the Supreme Court." The Supreme Court's decision "contains a thorough analysis of the temporary copies exception and previous CJEU case law". The decision notes that:

"if it is an infringement merely to view copyright material, without downloading or printing out, then those who browse the internet are likely unintentionally to incur civil liability, at least in principle, by merely coming upon a web-page containing copyright material in the course of browsing."

As a result it was stated that:

"the issue has a transnational dimension and that the application of copyright law to internet use has important implications for many millions of people across the EU making use of what has become a basic technical facility. These considerations make it desirable that any decision on the point should be referred to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling, so that the critical point may be resolved in a manner which will apply uniformly across the European Union."

Full judgement available here.

ORG Media coverage

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