The three sections of particular interest to Open Rights Group in the Queen’s Speech 2013 are “Proposals on the investigation of crime in cyberspace”, the Intellectual Property Bill and the draft Consumer Rights Bill.
“In relation to the problem of matching internet protocol addresses, my Government will bring forward proposals to enable the protection of the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace.”
In the place of a revised Communications Data Bill, the Government announced proposals to investigate how to match IP addresses to unique mobile subscribers. This is very different to what the draft Communications Data Bill had earlier proposed and the revised legislation the Home Office was expected to announce.
At the moment, the limited number of unique IP addresses means that mobile carriers share IP addresses using source port mapping under NAT PAT amongst hundreds of devices (which are usually linked to a subscriber). Unique devices are assigned specific port numbers which are appended to their shared IP address. The port numbers given to different subscribers change very quickly so it is currently difficult for mobile carriers to keep logs of who is assigned which port number. IP addresses are shared amongst hundreds of subscribers. Port numbers are assigned to unique devices but only for a short time.
It would be very expensive and could be technically challenging to start logging who has been assigned which port numbers. There is not thought to be a business case for recording this data.
Richard Clayton thinks there are probably four future possibilities:
- the mobile companies volunteer to start logging who is assigned which port number - no legislation
- the Home Office compensates the mobiles companies to log who is assigned which port number - no legislation
- there is legislation to compel mobile companies to log who is assigned which port number to ensure compensating them is lawful and that all mobile companies keep the logs
- there are no changes perhaps because data retention is found to incompatible with human rights in the European Court of Justice
“A further Bill will make it easier for businesses to protect their intellectual property.”
The Government wants to change the intellectual property laws in response to the recommendations of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property.
The Bill would:
- bring in EU-wide patents by implementing the Unitary Patent Court Agreement. The London Court would hear pharmaceutical and life sciences patent disputes from around the EU.
- introduce criminal penalties for the copying of designs; something which is already in place for copyright and trademark disputes
- propose a designs opinion service to allow designs holders to ask the Intellectual Property Office for an expert opinion on whether a design is being infringed
- allow information sharing between international patent offices
- allows the UK to join the Hague system whereby design applicants can choose which countries to register their design in
- allow patent owners to mark their products with a web address linking to the details of their patent
- exempt researchers who are yet to publish their work from Freedom of Information requests to give them the chance to validate and analyse their work and file for patents before opening them up to the public
There are questions to be answered surrounding how the criminal penalties for copying designs will be enforced, the effects of the Bill on 3D printing and whether the Bill will negatively impact innovation in the UK.
The draft Consumer Rights Bill
“A draft Bill will be published establishing a simple set of consumer rights to promote competitive markets and growth.”
The Bill would:
- bring together numerous pieces of consumer rights legislation into one law
- set out clear consumer rights for digital content such as e-books, music, software and video so that consumers can be reimbursed for flawed digital goods
- make it easier for consumers to win compensation where consumer law has been breached
- try to deregulate and reduce costs to businesses, enhance protection for consumers and give more powers to Trading Standards