ORG parliamentary and policy update/2013-w23

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is ORG's parliamentary Update for the week beginning 3/06/2013

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Official Meetings

Consultations and departments

US snooping programme PRISM throws questions for UK government

The Guardian and Washington Post reported that the US National Security Agency can routinely access the sensitive data stored by big web firms including Facebook, Google, Skype, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube and Apple through the PRISM programme. The US Director of National Intelligence said that the monitoring only applied to non-US citizens.

ORG called for a Parliamentary investigation into the extent of the UK Government's knowledge of PRISM and said that there were some serious questions for the Government to answer.

We laid out the questions for Government here and the legal issues here

The questions are as follows:

  • What did the UK Government know about the PRISM programme?
  • Given the history of collaboration between the US and the UK, can they give us assurances that UK secret services have not been involved in the PRISM programme?
  • Will the UK Government be seeking clarification from the US Government about whether the data of UK citizens is being monitored by the NSA?
  • Has the UK received any intelligence based on queries made through the alleged PRISM programme?
  • Would the Government advise that UK citizens, businesses and MPs stop using services provided by American web companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft?
  • Can the UK Government give assurance that the commericial confidentiality of UK businesses has not been breached through the PRISM programme?

EE debate mobile weblogs and privacy

On 5 June ORG held a debate with EE in Parliament concerning data retention following on from reports that personal information was being sold to third parties. Members of the panel included representatives from EE, Ipsos Mori, the Information Commissioner Office and Joss Wright from the Oxford Internet Institute.

Read ORG's blog for a summary of the debate

DCMS calls summit on extreme or illegal content online

As the Telegraph reports, Maria Miller, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has "sent a letter to internet service providers, search engines and mobile phone operators such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and 3, calling them to a meeting at Westminster in a fortnight's time." This follows on from calls from MPs to block violent and child porn images online.

ORG to write to Minister ensuring civil society presence.

Data Protection Regulation: "LobbyPlag" v2

LobbyPlag has updated its service to rate MEPs for their proposed anti- and pro-privacy amendments. UK MEPs as a whole come out especially badly, including Liberal Democrat Sarah Ludford MEP, who Lobby Plag say has proposed 77 damaging amendments against 12 that would improve privacy. Conservative Timothy Kirkhope MEP has proposed 69 weakening amendments against just five that would improve privacy.

Only MEPs on committees such as the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) have been analysed, as they are the only ones who can propose amendments for debate.

Previously, LobbyPlag compared amendments made by MEP's to the Data Protection Regulation with those written by industry lobbyists with it being concluded that MEP's were taking law proposals verbatim from lobbyists and trying "slip them into the upcoming EU privacy law". This has raised concerns over data protection and the weakening of privacy rights.

See ORG's blog for further details alongside a brief guide to the issues.

Internet companies warn May over "snooper's charter"

Five of the largest internet companies have, according to the Guardian "privately delivered a thinly veiled warning to the home secretary, Theresa May, that they will not voluntarily co-operate with the "snooper's charter". A leaked letter from internet giants, including Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo, states that plans to "monitor everyone's email, internet and social media access" is too expensive and "highly contentious". The collaboration of internet companies is integral to the proposed revival of the Data Communications Bill however it has been stated that the collection and storage of personal data:

"would would threaten the open nature of the internet – which means that it is available to anyone who accesses it – and would undermine their ability to offer a global service by companies working within the legal framework of their home jurisdiction."


Culture, Media and Sport Committee

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is conducting a fourth evidence gathering session regarding the regulation of the press. According to the committee "Members will have the opportunity to question representatives of the local and regional press about their views on the recommendations made by L J Leveson, as well as assess the surest financial situation for local and regional press."

The session is scheduled to take place on the 21 May with witnesses including David Newell, Director, and Adrian Jeakings, President, Newspaper Society, David Montgomery, Chairman, Local World, Ashley Highfield, CEO, Johnston Press plc and Christopher Thomson, Chief Executive, DC Thomson & Co Ltd.

The committee also published its uncorrected transcript of oral evidence on 4 June.

Government Bills

Intellectual Property Bill

Following on from second reading of the Intellectual Property Bill, which took place on 22 May, Committee stage has been scheduled for the 11 June. According to the Progress of the Bill "line by line examination of the Bill" will take place in "Grand Committee".

Debates and questions

Copyright: Prosecutions Question

Grahame Morris MP: To ask the Attorney-General how many successful prosecutions have been brought against individuals who have stripped copyright metadata and other information which identifies a copyright holder of a piece of work in the last (a) 12 months and (b) five years.

The Attorney-General Dominic Grieve MP, in response, stated that:

"The records held by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) identify the number of offences in which a prosecution commenced and reached a first hearing in magistrates courts, rather than the number of cases or defendants prosecuted. A single defendant may be prosecuted for multiple offences and it is not possible to disaggregate figures to show separately the volume and outcome of proceedings for each individual offence prosecuted. Copyright offences are also prosecuted by local authorities and by private prosecutors and the CPS does not hold any data in relation to those prosecutions.

The stripping of copyright metadata, referred to as removing or altering electronic rights management information, in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 will be subject to criminal prosecution where the activity is associated with making, dealing, importing or possessing infringing articles contrary to section 107."

Copyright Question

Grahame Morris MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will bring forward legislative proposals to strengthen the penalties for removing or altering electronic rights management information from copyrighted works.

Jo Swinson MP, in response, stated that:

"The general law already provides adequate criminal penalties for copyright infringement irrespective of whether electronic rights management information has been removed from the copyright works. For example, section 107 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 already provides a criminal offence where, under section 107(2A), a person communicates a copyright work to the public, knowing or having reason to believe that he is infringing copyright and the act was either done in the course of a business or it prejudicially affects the owner of the copyright. Criminal proceedings may also be brought under the Fraud Act 2006, where a person strips metadata and falsely claims to be the copyright owner in order to make a gain for himself (Section 2 Fraud by false representation)."

International Developments

NATO pledges to create hacker-busting cyber defence teams

NATO has confirmed plans to create "new elite cyber defence teams designed to deal with hyper-sophisticated threats". NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the plan at a keynote in Brussels whereby "NATO will form quick-reaction cyber defense teams to protect its own networks and aid allies who come under attack". The secretary general highlighted the importance of co-opertation stating that:

"We are all closely connected. So an attack on one ally, if not dealt with quickly and effectively, can affect us all. Cyber defense is only as effective as the weakest link in the chain. By working together, we strengthen the chain.”

The cyber quick-reaction teams are scheduled to be completed and fully operational by October. Despite primarily focussing on the protection NATO's networks "they also may respond to attacks on individual member states who request NATO's assistance."

NATO is one of many bodies to attempt to address the growing cyber threat facing Europe. "The European Commission has similarly cited improving the region's defences as a key part of its Digital Agenda and Cyber Security Strategy."

Taiwanese Intellectual Property Office plan to 'adjust' SOPA-like Censorship

The Taiwanese Intellectual Property Office, part of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, have decided to 'adjust' plans to block overseas Internet services that potentially violate copyright laws. The proposal made by the government to amend the Copyright Act requiring local Internet Service Providers to block illegal content in foreign Web sites faced strong criticisms from free speech advocates. according to the 1709 blog:

"Wang Mei-hua, head of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) stressed her office 'never intended to challenge or acted to damage' the freedom of speech that Taiwan's people worked so hard to acquire."

European Union

France removes Internet cut-of threat from its anti-piracy law

According to the nytimes "a French experiment in cracking down on digital media piracy by threatening to kick copyright cheats offline is about to end". The famous "three strikes" anti-piracy regime was approved in 2009 aiming to "curb unauthorised file-sharing and to slow the erosion of media industry revenue" however the most extreme measure, being cut off from the Internet, has been put to an end.

The French digital minister Fleur Pellerin, at a press event in Sweden, confirmed that this part of the law would be overturned stating that "Today it's not possible to cut off someone's Internet access" likening it to "cutting off someone's water." As of yet this seems to be the only concrete result following on from the Lescure Report providing substantial analysis and recommendations for the future of digital policy in France. The Lescure Report also made two other significant recommendations; the first stating that "the administration of the law should move from the Haidopi agency (to be dissolved) to the French media regulator, the Superior audiovisual council (CSA), and the second stating that the French government "should impose a one percent tax on all 'connected devices' (smartphones, tablets, computers)."

As the nytimes reports "a downgrade of the French system would leave South Korea, which also imposed a similar system in 2009, as the country with perhaps the toughest anti-piracy measures in place. More than 4000 Internet accounts or Web sites have been suspended in South Korea since the law went into effect."

Devolved Matters

Law and Legal Cases

Apple Ordered to Pay €5 Million in Private Copy Levy on iPads

On May 30th the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance (trial court), as the 1709blog states, "ordered Apple to pay the princely sum of €5,000,000 to Copie France, the body tasked with collecting the private copy levy that applies to blank media and equipment capable of recording and storing such copies." The general manager of Copie France, Charles-Henri Lonjon, stated that "while Apple collected the levies from iPads sold to customers, it did not pay those levies to Copie France". Copie France started a counter procedure to get Apple to pay the levies. As pcadvisor notes:

"On Friday, the Paris High Court ruled that Apple should pay €5 million to Copie France, €2.2 million less than the €7.2 million the agency demanded. The amount that should be paid is provisional, so the it could change later in the proceedings".

The Paris High Court "is a court of first instance" whereby cases can be appealed and the amount can be changed when the "French administrative court decides if the imposed levies are legal". According to Charles-henri Lonjon Copie France was optimistic about its chances because the high court's ruling in principle proved that collecting these levies was legal stating "After the administrative court decision we hope to recover the rest of the €7.2 million".

Oracle v Google: EFF warn of threats to innovation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has joined the ongoing legal battle between Oracle and Google over whether APIs (Application Programming interface) should or shouldn't be copyrightable. According to the 1709blog "Google denies any wrongdoing and has argued, in part, that software APIs cannot be protected under U.S. copyright law." after having been accused by Oracle of infringing the copyright of its JAVA APIs in the developments of Google's Android OS.

The campaign group has gathered together 32 computer scientists and tech industry leaders in an amicus brief to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The brief, signed by tech leaders including MS-DOS author Tim Paterson and ARPANET developer Larry Roberts, supports the position that "APIs should not be copyrightable because they are critical to spurring innovation and inter-operability in the tech world."

Oracle originally sued Google for copyright infringement relating to "Google's use of 37 Java APIs used on its Android mobile operating system.". The case went to trial in May where Oracle argued that "Google knowingly used the APIs without a license from Sun Microsystems, which was bought by Oracle in 2010." Judge William Alsup ruled that the APIs were non-copyrightable, starting that:

"So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API. It does not matter that the declaration or method header lines are identical." The ruling found that the structure Oracle was claiming was not copyrightable under section 102(b) of the Copyright Act because it was a "system or method of operation."

Despite Oracle claiming that Google's use of Java in android is "decidedly unfair" the EFF "is adamant that copyright protection should not be extended noting that "without the compatibility enabled by APIs that are open, we would not have the vibrant computer and Internet environment we experience today, with new products and services routinely changing the way we see and interact with the world".

Full 36-page amicus brief of computer scientists available at

ORG Media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

ORG contact details

Staff page