ORG parliamentary and policy update/2013-w17

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is ORG's Parliamentary Update for the week beginning 22/04/2013

Official Meetings

Peter Bradwell met Baroness Sarah Ludford of the European Liberal group, ALDE, to discuss the Data Protection Regulation. Peter and Javier Ruiz met facebook representatives about the same issue. Jim Killock met Jon Davies of Wikimedia UK.

Government Bills

Crime and Courts Bill

During the first part of the 'Ping Pong' stage the House of Commons discussed the amendments made by the House of Lords to the Crime and Courts Bill. With respect to the position of small-scale bloggers a further explanation of what will constitute "relevant publisher" was discussed:

"At present, four interlocking tests define who is and who is not a relevant publisher for the purposes of these provisions. A relevant publisher must meet all of those. They must publish news-related material, be written by different authors, be subject to editorial control and be published in the course of business, whether or not that is with a view to profit....... We have therefore provided a definition or "relevant publisher" that captures national newspapers and their online editions, local and regional newspapers and their online editions, and online-only edited, press-like content providers."

Acknowledging the need for clarity, the House tabled two amendments to the House of Lords amendment 131A:

"Amendment (a) will add to the list of exemptions micro-businesses where they are a blog or where their publications are merely incidental to their other business. For organisations that publish news-related material incidentally to their main activity, that exemption will cover both online and traditional print. We use a definition of a micro-business commonly used by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which captures any business with fewer than 10 employees and a turnover of less than £2 million. The amendment will ensure that a micro-business that is either a small-scale blog or a website whose publication of news-related material is only incidental to its wider business is not included. That should place many blogs and other small web publishers squarely outside the incentives framework.

Amendment (b) will allow those not captured to get the benefit of the costs incentives if they choose to join the recognised regulator, even though they are not a relevant publisher. That means that those exempted by virtue of the fact that they are a micro-business can choose to gain the benefits of the costs clauses by joining the regulator, providing an incentive for them to join if they so wish and a choice to small organisations, perhaps before they grow in size and inevitably become a relevant publisher. That is an important addition that will help support that part of the market."

House of Commons amendments available here

On Tuesday the House of Lords discussed the above amendments made by the House of Commons. Following on from a discussion of the exclusions to the definition of "relevant publisher" Lord Mcnally moved:

"That this House do not insist on its Amendment 131A, to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 18A and 131B in lieu."

According to the Progress of the Bill "A date for royal Assent has yet to be set."

Defamation Bill

The House of Commons considered the amendments made to the Defamation Bill by the House of Lords on the 24 April. Following on from the Commons disagreeing with Lords Amendment No.2 based on it being "unnecessary and inappropriate for the Bill to make special provision restricting the bringing of defamation claims by non-natural legal persons." The Lords proposed Amendment 2B "in lieu":

2B Page 1, line 4, at end insert—

"( ) For the purposes of this section, harm to the reputation of a body that trades for profit is not "serious harm" unless it has caused or is likely to cause the body serious financial loss.

In a discussion led by Helen Grant MP it was moved that the Commons "agrees with Lords amendment 2B in lieu of Lords amendment 2, to which this House disagreed." According to the Progress of the Bill:

"Both Houses agreed on the text of the Bill which now waits for the final stage of Royal assent when the Bill will become an Act of parliament."

House of Commons amendments available here.

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

The passing of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill - now an Act - is a modest victory for orphan works and opens the door for further copyright reform including parody and format shifting exceptions. It also provides for regulation of collecting societies and provides for extended collective licensing, popular in Nordic countries. More controversially it extends design rights.

Communications Data Bill

The Communications Data Bill has received a considerable blow from the Deputy PrimMinister Nick Clegg MP. As TechWeek Europe notes:

"Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has promised to stop the Communications Data Bill, which would give the police greater access to personal communications data. Clegg pledged that the so-called “Snooper’s Charter” will not reach Parliament as long as the Liberal Democrats are in government."

Read ORG's summary here.

Debates and Questions

Local Government: Cybercrime Question

Chinyelu Onwurah MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance his Department issues to local authorities on (a) the resources to spend and (b) the measures to be used to address cyber security concerns.

Brandon Lewis MP, in response, stated that:

"The National Cyber Security programme has funded a number of training courses and briefings designed to increase understanding of cyber security risks and mitigation strategies among senior leaders within central Government and the wider public sector. Over the past 18 months many representatives from local government have attended these sessions and efforts have been made to proactively engage with this audience via newsletters, networks and fora dedicated to the sector.

The National Cyber Security programme funding has also ensured that eLearning training created to address cyber security and general information security risks among staff, previously only accessible by central Government, is now freely available to local government organisations."

Children: Cyber Safety Question

Lord Storey: To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to increase understanding and awareness amongst parents and guardians of the cyber safety issues facing their children.

Lord Nash, in response, stated that:

"Through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, the Government have been working with industry, academia, charities and parenting groups to develop consistent advice for parents and guardians to keep children safe from online risks. Members have created a range of resources for children, teachers and parents. This includes innovative projects from individual members such as Vodafone's Digital Parenting magazine, which is distributed to thousands of parents and which contains practical "how to" guides on setting up parental controls and privacy settings on a range of services such as Xbox and Facebook, and Childnet's "Know it all" set of resources which has specific resource for parents. UKCCIS Ministers continue to press industry to do more-for example, asking internet service providers to work together on an awareness campaign."

Disclosure of Information Question

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

Brandon Lewis MP, in response, stated that:

"All staff are required to adhere to the terms of the Civil Service Code, the Public Interest Disclosure Act and, where appropriate, the Official Secrets Act.

The information requested is not centrally held. But it is not the general policy of the Department to make payments to staff to stop disclosure."

Disclosure of Information Question (Scotland)

Angus Robertson MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many officials in his Department received payments under a voluntary exit scheme in each of the last five years; and at what total cost in each such year.

David Mundell MP, in response, stated that:

"The Scotland Office does not employ staff directly, all staff are assigned to the Office on a secondment type arrangement, principally from the Scottish Government or the Ministry of Justice or on loam from another Government Department who remain the employers. It is these bodies which would operate any voluntary exit schemes. "

Royal Charters: Regulation Question

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what recent discussions she has had with media representatives about Royal Charter regulations on the basis of the Leveson proposals; and if she will make a statement.

Ed Vaizey MP, in response, stated that:

"The Department regularly publishes details of ministerial meetings with media representatives including newspaper and other media proprietors, editors and senior executives, full details of which can be found at the following links:

International Developments

U.S Copyright reform

European Union

Finland blacks out in support of copyright reform

According to ArcticStartup tomorrow marks the half-way point of the campaign led by Avion Ministeriö (Open Ministry) to make Finnish copyright laws fairer. In an attempt to gather more signatures Finnish websites are blacking out, leading visitors to sign the online petition. Joonas Pekkanen of Avoin Ministeriö stated:

"The idea is to follow the model that was in use in the US where companies take part in campaigning when there is an injustice. so the blackout day is a chance for Finnish companies to speak out against this far-reaching copyright law,"

Finnish copyright law has faced strong criticism for being "too far reaching", particularly after a nine year-old girl had her home raided by the police and her "Winnie the Pooh laptop confiscated after attempting to download Finnish pop star Chisu's album." After the Finnish Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Centre had detected the attempted download "police knocked at the family's door, with a search warrant, and proceeded to seize the girl's laptop from which the attempted download had been made."

The proposed reform "centres on reducing the penalty form"small scale" piracy to a fine, rather than the current maximum of two years custody." This would limit the powers available to the Finnish authorities to investigate infringement claims, "including a restriction in their right to obtain private data online or confiscate property." Alongside this the proposal also "includes the right to "fair use" of copyrighted material for teaching and research, and adds a new category of fair use to cover parody and satire,". Artists rights would also be strengthened, allowing artists to license their works through open lenses, as well as having "the ability to tell their representative organisation to stop suing on behalf of their content" if a fan is being prosecuted."

Finnish legislation, having been amended last year, states that "any petition that reaches 50,000 signatures must be brought to the parliament floor for a vote. At the time of writing, this proposal had gathered 26,348 signatures."

Law and Legal Cases

YouTube again beats Viacom in copyright case

United States District Judge Louis Stanton, as the 1709 Blog states "has stood by his original decision in the 2007 billion-dollar lawsuit brought by entertainment giant Viacom". According to Reuters:

"For the second time in three years, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan rejected Viacom's damages claims over Google's alleged unauthorised posting of clips from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "South Park,", "SpongeBob SquarePants" and other programs that viewers had uploaded to YouTube."

The original law suit was dismissed in June 2010 on the grounds that YouTube was protected against Viacom's claims by 'safe harbor' provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. After being instructed by the 2nd U.S Circuit Court of Appeals to take another look Stanton stated:

"there is no evidence YouTube induced its users to submit infringing videos, provided users with detailed instructions about what content to upload or edited their content, prescreened submissions for quality, steered users to infringing videos or otherwise interacted with infringing users to a point where it might be said to have participated in their infringing activity."

As the Los Angeles Times reported, Google's general counsel Kent walker stated "The court correctly rejected Viacom's lawsuit against YouTube, reaffirming that Congress got it right when it comes to copyright on the Internet." and "This is a win not just for YouTube, but for people everywhere who depend on the Internet to exchange ideas and information."

ORG Media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

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