ORG parliamentary and policy update/2013-w22

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is ORG's parliamentary update for the week beginning 27/5/2013

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Official Meetings

Consultations and departments

Information Economy Strategy

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, having launched an open consultation on the information economy for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), has published its summary of responses. With the information economy described as "the part of the economy where digital technologies and information combine to drive productivity and create new growth opportunities across the whole economy" five main areas of focus were discussed:

"The majority of respondents agreed that five growth opportunities (cloud computing; big data; e-commerce, internet of things, smart cities) were the right areas on which to focus. Cloud computing was commonly cited as the most important of the five because effort spent in this area would drive the other areas, facilitate access to data, reduce costs and improve efficiency. Most respondents recognised the importance of linking the five areas together and not viewing them as “discrete sectors” but “interdependent concepts”."

The government hopes to "publish an information economy strategy this spring."

Full summary of responses available on

Department for Education and Department for Culture, Media & Sport

On the 24 May the Department for Education and Department for Culture, Media and Sport published their press release "New measures build on progress protecting childhood". These new measures include the assigning of age ratings being given to a range of video content that is currently exempt "such as some music and sports DVDs" so that those deemed as unsuitable for younger children "will have to carry a British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) age rating in future." alongside government announcing for public WIFI providers to filter websites in public places "to give parents the piece of mind children will be protected from inappropriate websites when away from home." These announcements are related to the publication of the Bailey Review, "assessing the impact of measures to tackle the pressures on children to grow up too quickly."

The government is also publishing the response to its recent consultation on the Video Recordings Act addressing concerns about the exemptions from age rating currently given to "a range of music, sports, religious and educational DVDs and Blu-Ray discs."


Business, Innovation and Skills Committee

Having previously announced an inquiry into the Government's Open Access policy, on 23 May the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee published its uncorrected transcript of oral evidence. The transcript "is not yet an approved record of these proceedings." Witnesses David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, and Ron Egginton OBE, Head of the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council, lead the discussion by highlighting their position on a clear policy direction for open access:

"It was a response to the excellent work that Janet Finch did in her report. We believe in open access. Of course there is going to be a mixed economy for a long time, but we, like Janet Finch, in the long run have a preference for gold over green, to use the terminology."

In response to questions about how the Government came to its open access policy with specific respect to proponents of green open access it was stated that:

"The RCUK’s preference, like the Government’s, is very much towards gold over green. However, green is accepted, as the Minister has explained. The reason why they have that preference for gold, in addition to what the Minister has referred to in terms of immediate access, searching and so on, is because it provides immediate access to information in such a way that small companies and others can then utilise the information without restriction and immediately for economic purposes."

With respect to article-processing charges it was noted that, through the commitment to gold open access, "we would hope for competitive pressures meaning that publishers are competing for the opportunity of publishing research papers, and that could and should being down article-processing charges.". Concerning international outlook it was argued that the same debate is "absolutely happening in the US, it is happening in the EU" with the hope that during the G8 science strand discussion "we will be able to provide a forum for it to be discussed amongst science ministers and learned societies."

Members present included Brian Binley MP, Paul Blomfield MP, Katy Clark MP, Caroline Dinenage MP, Ann McKechin MP, Robin Walker MP and Nadhim Zahawi MP

Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence available at

Culture, Media and Sport Committee

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published its uncorrected transcript of oral evidence inquiring into support for the creative economy "and the impact on the creative industries of the independent Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth". Discussing the progress of the creative industries Ed Vaizey MP described it as "an area of policy we are getting broadly right." while Viscount Younger of Leckie argued for the need to produce "the optimum framework for growth". Following on from recommendations made in the Hargreaves Report it was stated that "copyright needs to change. We need to change with the advances in the digital age and with advantages in technology, and that is what we are grasping at the moment. That takes account of both polarised views." With the role of copyright and orphan works being a point of strongly opposing views Viscount Younger of Leckie responded to accusations of the Government being against copyright stating:

"I don’t recognise that view of copyright. I said earlier that it is a highly complex issue, and I suspect they come from a particular angle. As I say, I see my role as looking at both sides of some very polarised and strong views. My job is not to take one side or another, and I need to find my way forward. I say again: it is to be able to protect those who are creating or making music, in particular, but also to open up where it is seen reasonable to open up. That to me is a very reasonable way forward, and it is what I would continue to do as a policy. So I don’t recognise that particular view point, and it is obviously a passionate view, which I respect."

In response to questions concerning the Government's "view of the broad thrust of the Hargreaves Report" Viscount Younger of Leckie responded stating "The answer is absolutely, I do believe it is broadly positive for the economy."

Members included John Whittingdale MP, Ben Bradshaw MP, Angie Bray MP, Paul Farrelly MP, Jim Sheridan MP and Gerry Sutcliffe MP.

Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence available at

Government Bills

Debates and questions

Copyright Question

John Whittingdale MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills whether the circumvention of technological protection measures will be permitted in the event that a notice of complaint is received as a result of the proposed exception to copyright for private copying (a) if a commercial digital offering with secure copies is available and (b) in any other circumstances.

Jo Swinson MP, in response, stated that:

"The circumvention tools of effective technological protection measures is explicitly prohibited by EU Directive 2001/29/EC and this is reflected by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. This will not change as a result of introducing any private copying exception.

International Developments

RIAA calls for DCMA "safe harbor" and takedown review

The Executive Vice President of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has, according to the 1709 Blog "urged Congress to overhaul the safe harbor provision of the copyright law that shield websites from infringement actions providing they remove infringing material after being notified." based on the law being "too burdensome for copyright holders." Posted on RIAA's blog it was argued that:

"something isn't working with this system which is intended to balance the rights of content creators with the rights of companies like Google. Creators of all types and sizes – and especially the individual creators who try to protect their content on their own, spending their own time and money sending takedown notices instead of making the movies and music to which they’ve devoted their lives -- will tell you that the system isn’t working. The balance is off. "

Outlining the various problems present within The Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1988 it was stated that "it's time to rethink the notice and takedown provisions of the DMCA." Focus was placed on the "safe harbor" provision with it providing a shelter to digital thieves at the expense of rights holders. In his post the Executive Vice President highlights how the current system is "largely impotent against a tide of online piracy for profit" as:

"the targets of our notices don't even pretend to be innovators constructing new and better ways to legally enjoy music - they have simply created business models that allow them to profit from giving someone else's property away for free."

Discussing the possibility for improvement it was stated that:

"As the Congressional review of the DMCA gets underway, there should be a strong focus on what notice and takedown was supposed to accomplish. The DMCA was intended to define the way forward for technology firms and content creators alike, but some aspects of it no longer work. How could we expect it to? It was passed before Google even existed, or the iPod, or peer-to-peer file-sharing or slick websites offering free mp3 downloads. It was after the DMCA that Napster, and Grokster and Limewire and Grooveshark and Megaupload, to name just a few, came on the scene. In particular, it’s time to rethink the notice and takedown provisions of the DMCA"

Taiwanese Protests over SOPA-like Censorship

A proposal made by the government of Taiwan to amend the Copyright Act requiring local Internet Service Providers to block illegal content on foreign Web sites, as the 1709 blog states "has come under fire from venture capitalists and Web users alike, primarily for violating freedom of speech and people's rights." According to techinasia the proposed change would allow for the "blocking of foreign websites determined to be host to blatant copyright violations." with the blocks likely to be "DNS or IP address blocks carried out by Taiwanese ISPs on order from the government." As a result many users are concerned that such a system "could ultimately be used as a means of controlling freedom of expression."

The proposed changes have been likened to the [wikipedia: Stop Online Piracy Act| Stop Online Privacy Act]] (SOPA) which caused massive online protests in 2012 and was "widely considered a step towards censoring the internet."

Objections to including DRM into HTML5

Formal objections have been made, perhaps most notably by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to including digital rights management (DRM) in the "First Working Draft from the HTML working group of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)." According to Danny O'Brien "EFF's concerns focus on the proposed Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) document." and as a result:

"EFF increased its involvement in the W3C from being a regular participant and invited expert to a full member, to challenge DRM in the group's future work. We feel that this is the best way to broaden the discussion within the W3C of the consequences of accepting DRM-based proposals like EME for the future of the Web and the W3C as a whole.

Full proposal available at

European Union

European Commission calls on the European Parliament to guarantee net neutrality

The Vice-President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, as thenextweb reports "delivered an interesting political rallying cry in front of the European Parliament (EP) this morning in an effort to abolish mobile roaming costs and safeguard citizens' right to access an 'open Internet'." According to the verge "Kroes' legislative package is aimed at uniting European carriers, offering a single telecoms market by next year." The belief is that a single telecoms market will be beneficial to Europe "by boosting the digital economy" and "establishing political connections". The telecommunications sector is at the core of the European Commission's growth plan and Digital Agenda for Europe with the establishment of a single european telecoms market a top priority for Kroes and Brussels. The aim is "the package can be signed and presented by Ester 2014." The Verge reports that:

"Kroes says she has already gathered support from the "highest levels in institutions." With a single telecoms market, the EC wants to end consumers' roaming frustrations and encourage companies to invest in the European mobile infrastructure, and it already has the support of many European governments."

European Commission set to demand further concessions from Google

EU regulators are, as V3 notes "on the verge of demanding further search concessions from the firm" after "EU competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, confirmed plans to demand further concessions during a hearing at the European Parliament." The case involves Google's Internet search engine practices with Reuters reporting that "Almunia also said he had yet to decide whether to open a formal investigation into Google's Android operating system, widely used in smartphones phones and tablets."

Law and Legal Cases

ORG Media coverage

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