ORG parliamentary and policy update/2014-w07

< ORG parliamentary and policy update

This is ORG's Parliamentary Update for the week beginning 10/02/2014

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Official Meetings

Jim Killock met with the Citizen's Advice Bureau. He also gave an interview with Al Jazeera to discuss ORG's new campaign Don't Spy on Us.

Peter Bradwell spoke at the UK Internet Governance Forum about child online protection.


New inquiry into real-time analysis of social media data

The Science and Technology Committee has launched an inquiry into the benefits of using real-time analytics on social media data. They describe possible benefits as being "studying social processes as they unfold at the level of populations as an alternative to traditional surveys or interviews."

The inquiry is accepting written submissions of evidence and is calling on those interested to answer questions including:

"What are the ethical concerns of using personal data and how is this data anonymised for research?"
"What impact is the upcoming EU Data Protection Legislation likely to have on access to social media data for research?"
"Is UK legislation surrounding the collection and use of data fit for purpose?"

Deadline for submission is Monday 31 March. Instructions and submission forms can be found on their website.

Debates and questions

Westminster Hall debate on "Supporting the Digital Economy"

Thursday saw a debate in Westminster Hall discussing the topic "Supporting the Digital Economy". During the debate, the Vice-chair of the All-Party Intellectual Property Group, John Whittingdale MP suggested an alternative root to dealing with the delayed Digital Economy Act 2010. The Digital Economy Act is in effect, but there are still problems with getting statutory instruments to implement it. He suggested that when dealing with internet users who illegally share copyrighted material, a voluntary solution from ISPs and rights owners be used instead of mandatory legislation. He said "A voluntary copyright alert programme would involve an agreement between the rights owners and the ISPs that there would be a system through which letters were issued to those identified as illegally downloading."

Westminster Hall debates are informal debates that give the opportunity to MPs to discuss important matters in more depth.

International Developments

US Senator launches petition to issue pardon for Edward Snowden

Senator Ron Paul has started a petition demanding a pardon for Edward Snowden. In a statement he said “Edward Snowden sacrificed his livelihood, citizenship, and freedom by exposing the disturbing scope of the NSA’s worldwide spying program. Thanks to one man’s courageous actions, Americans know about the truly egregious ways their government is spying on them”.

Science channel on YouTube facing termination after DMCA issued by film-makers

A popular YouTube channel featuring 'science facts' and 'sceptical/debunking' videos, may be permanently removed from the site and the creator of the channel will be barred from opening a new account. The decision comes after two Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) take-down requests were issued by the creators of the film "House of Numbers". The DMCA is an American law that implements the two copyright treaties of the United Nation's World Intellectual Property Organisation.

The film aims to explore the issues of HIV and has been criticised by doctors (including those interviewed) as misrepresenting their views and the facts.

Myles Power (alias of channel owner) created a series of videos exposing the arguments of the film. The significance of the case lies in the claims between those involved. The film-makers issued DMCA take-down requests, under claims of copyright for showing clips of the film in his videos. Myles Power claims the use of film material came under fair-use and was used for educational purposes. Since there are other videos on YouTube featuring the full-length film, that haven't been issued take-down notices, critics claim the intention is to censor opposing views.

European Union

European court finds that hyperlinks do not constitute copyright infringement, in cases of freely available materials

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled, in a new case, that featuring hyperlinks on websites does not constitute copyright infringement.

The case was brought to the ECJ from the Swedish Court of the Appeal. It involved a website that indexed links to articles freely available on the internet. Some journalists, whose articles were linked to, felt they deserved reimbursement from the indexing site. However, the ECJ ruled, they didn't owe any reimbursement, as the site was not 'creating a new audience', since the articles were freely available at the original source. In the words of the ruling:

"In the circumstances of this case, it must be observed that making available the works concerned by means of a clickable link, such as that in the main proceedings, does not lead to the works in question being communicated to a new public” “Therefore, since there is no new public, the authorization of the copyright holders is not required for a communication to the public such as that in the main proceedings."

However, it should be noted the ruling permits hyperlinks as long as it doesn't offer access of copyrighted material to a 'new public'. The ruling defines 'new public' as those who wouldn't have access to the original material, by the original creators, due to subscriber restrictions.

Law and Legal Cases

Decision by German court finds domain registrar responsible for website's copyright infringement

In a case between music label Universal and a German domain registrar over the latter's hosting of a torrent tracking website, the German regional court found the domain registrar responsible for the actions of the hosted site. The torrent site in question, hosted links to locations where music owned by Universal could be illegally downloaded.

The court maintained the domain registrar should have investigated the site in question after they were issued a series of infringement notifications.

The registrar's general counsel, Volker Gerimann, said of the verdict "If left unchallenged, this decision would constitute an undue expansion of the legal obligations of each registrar based in Germany, endangering the entire business model of registering domain names or performing DNS addressing for third parties".

Political Parties

Ed Miliband calls for debate on intelligence agencies at same magnitude as US

The Labour party's leader. Ed Miliband has made calls for a debate on oversight of the intelligence agencies with the same vigour as it has taken place in the US. He said that reforming oversight bodies of GCHQ, MI6 and MI5 would be part of his campaign in challenging 'unaccountable power'. He did state however that the ongoing reviews into oversight by the Intelligence and Security Committee and the Interception of Communications Commissioner were important.

He also said he would reform the way NHS patient information will be processed, stating that he would appoint a 'patient committee' to weigh in on changes to the National Health Service.

Commercial Stakeholders

Representatives from UK adult content industry launch site to educate on appropriate filters

Groups of the UK's adult content industry (and two age verification companies), have banded together to raise awareness about the faulty filtering services, offered by the five main ISPs. They argue the new filtering systems do not work, wrongly filter sex-education sites, as well as other educational websites, and fail to filter out adult content. They argue “There are better filters available than those offered by the ISPs which are also less prone to overblocking.”

Through the launch of a site called, they aim to educate parents of the importance of online protection from inappropriate content, while also protecting legitimate content.

ORG Media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

ORG contact details

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