ORG parliamentary and policy update/2013-w27

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is ORG's Parliamentary Update for the week beginning 01/07/2013

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Official Meetings

Consultations and departments

Royal Charter on Self-Regulation of the Press

Prime Minister David Cameron MP has been reported stating that the royal charter submitted by newspapers underpinning a new system of self-regulation has "serious shortcomings". The alternative royal charter proposes a number of changes including:

  • Removing Parliament's power to block or approve future changes to the regulation, instead putting a "recognition panel" in place.
  • The introduction of an appointments committee including one representative from the newspaper industry.
  • The removal of the ban on former editors being on the panel.
  • Making it more difficult to raise group complaints.

During Prime Minister's questions David Cameron noted that:

"The legal advice, which we have shared with the leader of the opposition and his deputy, is that we have to take these things in order: we have to take the press's royal charter first and then we have to bring forward the royal charter on which we have all agreed."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, has responded to the rival charters saying that "all politicians and the newspaper industry has done is to create "confusion and resentment" by putting forward rival proposals." In a submission to Department for Culture, Media and Sport Liberty argued that "a royal charter is constitutionally inappropriate, undemocratic, opaque and in no way fit for this purpose,".

According to the BBC "The Privy Council will therefore not decide on the matter until the autumn at the earliest".

Further deliberations on the Data Protection Regulation may be secret

Following on from earlier reports from LobbyPlag ranking Sarah Ludford MEP for her anti-privacy amendments to the Data Protection Regulation, having been instrumental in the EC quietly dropping article 42 from the GDPR, it has been reported that:

"the safeguard was abandoned by commission officials in January 2012, despite the assertions of Viviane Reding, the EU’s top justice official, that the exemption would have stopped the kind of surveillance recently disclosed as part of the National Security Agency’s Prism programme."

According to the Financial Times this followed intense US lobbying: "Janet Napolitano, the US secretary of homeland security, also personally lobbied Brussels officials, according to one EU official involved in deliberations.".

Since the PRISM revelations growing calls have been made to reintroduce article 42 (the "anti-FISA" clause), however concerns have been expressed over its application with it being argued that "it would be impossible to enforce and will only make EU-US trade negotiations more difficult." As a result it has been noted that the EU may be on the point of making further discussions on the Data Protection Regulation secret, through the use of back-room negotiations and "Trilogues" whereby:

"only people allowed in are the rapporteur and his shadows, the Commissioner, the Presidency, and selected advisers from each institution. The trilogue discussions are not made public."

Defence Cyber Protection Partnership

On Friday the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ announced the [Defence Cyber Protection Partnership]] which includes the MoD, GCHQ, Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, and nine companies to advise on information security issues.

Anti-NSA web protests

On 4 July a number of high-profile websites took part in an online protest "against the National Security Agency (NSA)'s surveillance of online activity and phone calls". Organised by the non-profit organisation Fight for the Future, participation included ", Namecheap, Reddit, 4chan, Mozilla, Fark, TOR, Cheezburger, Demand Progress, MoveOn, and EFF, among others." The campaign directed visitors to a website prompting them to "sign an online petition, call Congress, make donations to fund TV campaigns" and to join offline protests.

Government Bills

Intellectual Property Bill

Line by line examination of the Intellectual Property Bill took place in the House of Lords on the 18 June. The next stage of the bill, report stage, has been scheduled for the 23 July.

Private Members Bills

Freedom of Information (Identity of Applicants) Bill

The Freedom of Information (Identity of Applicants) Bill was scheduled to have its first reading on the 19 June. The bill, introduced by Karl McCartney MP, provides "for the disclosure of the identity of those who make requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000". The provisions of the bill have raised questions regarding its implications for the privacy of individual requesters with the Campaign for freedom of Information stating that:

"Many people use the FOI Act to obtain information about matters which directly affect them. The information they seek may not be personal, but their interest in it is. Someone who asks a social services department about the support provided to people with a particular condition living in particular circumstances may be describing their own situation. Publishing their names will suggest this to others. Where the inference is correct, the disclosure would be highly intrusive. As the law stands, it would also breach the Data Protection Act (DPA). There should be no question of identifying requesters seeking information about issues they face such as mental illness, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual orientation or learning disability."

Discussing the "applicant blind principle" it is argued that the Freedom of Information Act is concerned with whether "information can be made public - not whether information should be released to the person making the request" with the applicant blind principle ensuring that "authorities are not tempted to disclose information to those who are sympathetic to them, while placing obstacles in the way of critics."

Debates and questions

Children: Sexually Explicit Material Question

Baroness Benjamin: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what guidance they provide to schools to ensure that children cannot circumvent systems in place to prevent access to sexually explicit content on school premises.

Lord Nash, in response, stated that:

"It is essential that schools have robust systems in place to prevent children from accessing sexually explicit content on their premises. The Department for Education’s guidance to schools on purchasing broadband is clear that schools need adequate monitoring, filtering, firewalls and other network security to ensure that children are protected. The government also recommends that schools access the guidance available from organisations with considerable expertise in this area, including the National Education Network and Childnet International. Internet safety and responsibility is part of the National Curriculum, and the Ofsted school inspection handbook states that inspectors should consider the effectiveness of internet safety arrangements to ensure that pupils are protected while online.

Furthermore, a Department for Education ICT specification outlines e-safety standards for IT infrastructure and services, particularly in relation to content, filtering and security. Broadband and ICT service providers work closely with expert bodies such as the Internet Watch Foundation to ensure that high standards are met.

Many pupils have access to internet-enabled phones that operate independently of school ICT systems. Whilst it is the responsibility of schools to decide how they approach this issue, Department of Education guidance requires schools to enforce acceptable use policies linked to the broader school behaviour policy."

Cybercrime Question

Chi Onwurah MP: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what steps he is taking to work with IT industry leaders such as Microsoft and Google to assess the adequacy of the level of cyber security among consumers and small businesses.

Chloe Smith MP, in response, stated that:

"The UK Cyber Security Strategy published in November 2011 stresses the importance of partnership with industry in addressing cyber security threats to the UK. Government Departments work closely with industry through a wide range of programmes and initiatives including targeted engagement and dedicated sector partnerships. Through the National Cyber Security Programme we are working with a range of industry partners to assess and address cyber security among consumers and SMEs, using research and awareness campaigns delivered through the joint public and private sector initiative, Get Safe Online, and through the National Fraud Authority's online fraud work.

The Government has announced that in 2013 we will be rolling out a programme of public and SME awareness drives, building on the work of the National Fraud Authority and Get Safe Online. This programme will be delivered in partnership with the private sector including industry leaders and will aim at increasing cyber confidence and measurably improving the online safety of consumers and SMEs. We are working now to understand the online behaviour of different segments of consumers in order to prepare the ground for these campaigns and to ensure what we do is based on evidence."

International Developments

Australian Green Party push for copyright reform

The Australian Green Party have moved to bring "common sense and fairness" to copyright law through the introduction of the Copyright Legislation Amendment (Fair Go for Fair Use) Bill. Senator Scott Ludlam was reported stating:

"Central to our reforms is the introduction of a ‘fair use’ provision. It will make the Copyright Act properly reflect the legitimate expectations of consumers by promoting innovation and fair access to archives and other information stores of public interest”

Referring to the current laws as "arcane" Ludlam argued that this "sledgehammer approach drags innocent organisations into strife, fostering onerous micromanagement of users that is detrimental to institutions and individuals alike” with the new bill removing obstacles while "harmonising Australian law with the treaty agreed in Marrakesh."

European Union

Law and Legal Cases

European Court of Justice data retention cases

On 9 July 2013, the European Court of Justice, as contentandcarrier reports, will have a hearing before the Grand Chamber "on the validity of the data retention directive (2006/24/EC). The references for a preliminary ruling, brought to the ECJ by the Irish High Court in (C-293/12 Digital Rights Ireland) and by the Austrian Constitutional Court in (C-594/12 Seitlinger and Others) raise questions concerning "the compatibility of the data retention directive with Articles 7, 8 and 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The ECJ "has indicated to the parties that the hearing will focus on Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter."

Fair compensation for private copying: CJEU

Last Thursday the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) gave judgement on the joint cases C-457/11 to C-460/11 "Verwertungsgesellschaft Wort (VG Wort) v Kyocera, Epson Deutschland GmbH, Xerox GmbH, Canon Deutschland GmbH and Fujitsu Technology Solutions GmbH, Hewlett-Packard GmbH v VG Wort."

The judgement, relating to the compensation given to authors for the reproduction of their work without their authorisation and Directive 2001/29/EC, concluded that:

"reproductions on paper or any similar medium, effected by the use of any kind of photographic technique or by some other process having similar effects' includes reproductions made using a printer or a personal computer where the two are linked together."

According to V3, in this case, it is open to the Member States to put in place a system according to which "fair compensation is paid by the persons in possession of a device contributing, in a non-autonomous manner, to that single reproduction process of the protected work or other subject-matter". The court also held that the directive, which came into force on 22 June 2001 and was transposed into national law by the 22 December 2002, did not apply "to the acts of using protected works or other subject-after which took place before that date."

No takedown and staydown in France

In a recent case involving SPFF (the French collecting society for record label's neighbouring right in sound recordings) and Youtube, the Paris Court of Appeals concluded that, as the 1709blog states:

"in no uncertain terms that Youtube, as a provider of hosting services, is under no general duty to monitor the content posted to its platform and that the takedown of a given piece of content by a hoster can only take place after proper prior notification has been given by the rights holder and that this is so even when the same piece of content has already been the subject-matter of a notification."

This decision echoes the stance taken by the Supreme Court (Cour de cassation) in July 2012 ruling. In the more recent ruling "the Appeals Court relies solely on statutory provisions (sections 6-I-2, 6-I-5 of the LCEN) and not on the 2012 rulings (not that unusal in a civil law jurisdiction such as France where stare decisis does not apply)."

"Avatar" copyright case

James Cameron, director of the world's two all-time highest grossing films, is being sued $50 million for copying art and "ideas in "Avatar". The plaintiff, British artist Roger Dean, filed the legal action in the District Court in the Southern District of New York claiming that Cameron and 20th Century Fox are guilty of "wilful and deliberate copying". As the bbd reports:

"Mr Dean. whop graduated from the Royal college of Art, in London, in 1968 said that, in particular, his paintings of floating islands and huge graceful arches in the sky, painted over the course of 40 years, were copied by the director."

Alongside this it was argued that "the overall look and feel of Pandora substantially resembles a Roger Dean world" with the the infringing portions of "Avatar" being so similar to the Plaintiff's work that the Defendants "must have had access to the Plaintiffs works".

This is the second legal action facing Cameron over Avatar, following on from a suit being filed by Bryant Moore, claiming "parts of two scripts he sent to Cameron's company were used in Avatar."

ORG Media coverage

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