UK Government Announces Copyright Plans; Surprisingly Good, With A Few Problems

from the and-expect-a-huge-legal-fight dept

As was expected, the current UK government has made it clear that it would like to follow the (relatively mild) suggestions of the Hargreaves report. Glyn Moody does an excellent job breaking down the details of the government’s announcement, noting that it’s mostly good, though there are a few areas of concern. One nice thing is that the government insists that it will require actual evidence that stronger IP laws actually benefit the country, rather than just taking it on faith. Hopefully they follow through on that.

There are a few interesting specific notes in the report, including saying that it will not support “site blocking,” as a way to deal with infringement. I’m not quite sure that fits with the recent Newzbin2 ruling in the UK that ordered BT to block the site, but it certainly seems notable. Unfortunately, they are implementing a £20 fee for anyone who wishes to appeal a “strike” under the Digital Economy Act. This is problematic, as it again seems to assume guilt before innocence, and makes you pay to get a review of your own innocence.

The government’s plan also appears to support a broadcast treaty, which is a dangerous plan to give intellectual property-like rights to broadcasters over works they broadcast even if they’re in the public domain. This recommendation seems wholly out of place. In the end, Moody sums it up, saying that while there are some bad things, there’s a lot to be encouraged by:

However, to summarise an over-long post, the UK Government’s response to the Hargreaves Report is much better than I expected. It has largely accepted Hargreaves’s main points, including the crucial one about the need for evidence before policy is formulated, or action is taken. Of course, there remain problems – the £20 fee for appeals is hugely discriminatory – and the UK Government did not address the underlying problems with copyright and patents, but that is not surprising – neither did Hargreaves and his team.

By setting himself a more modest goal of pointing out the most flagrant absurdities of the system in our digital world, and offering plausible fixes, Hargreaves seems to have managed to convince the UK Government of the wisdom of accepting more or less all of them. That’s no mean achievement, and both parties deserve kudos for arriving at this starting point, even if the real legislative journey has only just begun.

For the most part, I agree. I am curious how this will play out in actual policy however. The entertainment industry is an incredibly powerful lobby, and history has shown that they have had tremendous success, decade after decade, in convincing politicians of their evidence-free claims on certain things. Often it just takes trotting out some celebrity to complain. At other times they use a variety of tactics that get politicians to make proposals that clearly favor the specific interests of a few legacy players, pretending they’re for actual content creators instead. I have no doubt that we will see quite a battle in the UK over this pretty quickly, and while I’m encouraged by much of what’s been said, I have little faith that those implementing the policy will be able to successfully do so without being pressured by the industry into changing those plans.

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Comments on “UK Government Announces Copyright Plans; Surprisingly Good, With A Few Problems”

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Anonymous Coward says:

There’s nothing wrong with that 20 pound charge as long as it’s refunded if you prove your innocence.

If you run a red light, protest it and lose, you pay court costs.

They have reasonable cause to flag you, and just like with red lights, most people are guilty.

If you haven’t secured your wi-fi already, try reading the instruction manual. It isn’t difficult to come up with a password that’s hard to crack.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“They have reasonable cause to flag you, and just like with red lights, most people are guilty.”

As ever, I honestly hope that your IP address gets repeatedly flagged whenever this idiocy is tried wherever you live. It might not change your tune, but at least we won’t have to endure your foolishness once you get kicked off.

“t isn’t difficult to come up with a password that’s hard to crack.”

Because the complexity of the password and not the level of encryption is what matters… I love the fact that you also try to pretend that open wifi is the only way that someone innocent can be flagged, despite the many, many examples of other problems.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

As ever, I honestly hope that your IP address gets repeatedly flagged…

You don’t like what the guy said, so you want to see him framed for something he didn’t do.

You must be a police officer.

Or a prosecutor.

I don’t like what he said either. So I guess that makes me a “moralfag” in the modern vernacular. Make that an “old moralfag”.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“You don’t like what the guy said, so you want to see him framed for something he didn’t do.”

I merely think that he should be subjected to the punishment he advocates for other innocents.

“I guess that makes me a “moralfag” in the modern vernacular.”

Are you 5, or do you just hang around 5 year olds a lot? That doesn’t sound like a term I’ve ever heard.

Nicedoggy says:

Re: Re:

I just wish that your thinking was applied to lawyers, law enforcement and politics, lets make everybody responsible for everything that goes wrong.

If any lawyer defends a guilty party he should be prosecuted as an accessory and accomplice for trying to let the bad guys go free.

Any politician that copies another one should be fined millions and if anybody on his staff did something wrong he should be the one to be punished for it.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My irony meter blew up when I thought of my parents trying to configure a router. I can see them failing to connect the internet cable at the proper port.

You see, it is difficult.

And there’s EVERYTHING wrong, you are paying to prove you are innocent. How can you produce adequate evidence that your wifi wasn’t broken or poorly configured whithout spending a few more pounds in the process. Oh and how can you prove your ip was spoofed without spending some huge effort?

Your comment is plain fail 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s a whole lot wrong with a ?20 charge when it is an accusation and not a provable action. They are charging you ?20 just to proclaim your innocence? Just like so many other vague laws, this one is ripe for abuse.

How in the heck do you prove you didn’t download something? How do you prove it wasn’t you? Where do you get this locked in concrete evidence on digital goods? Haven’t we seen enough booboo’s already that show that doesn’t work? What? It’s no knock police raids next?

This ?20 charge will become an income for some agency that will be loath to lose what it sees as it’s money and it’s source of income. This pretty much happens every time there is money involved. It may be well intentioned but then the path to hell is paved with them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I accuse you of molesting photogenic monkeys and stealing the movies of them having sex.

Prove me wrong. But first pay me $20 please.

See the scientic method for proving a negative….. oh wait…. even they cannot prove a negative.

Your arguments are fallacious and trollish.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

And your response to proving a negative?

Ah – is it okay now to insult you? I mean you started it… I just made a (potentially) unfounded accusation.

So in response you attack me personally, state factually about my having a retarded intelligence, insult me and ignore any attempt to disprove my point.

You know very well what that’s called.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

As someone who actually DOES investigate, analyse and give expert witness testimony to criminal and civil cases involving crime/torts based upon technology such as computer networking (of all forms) your original sentence is only correct when reworded as such:

“IP addresses correctly ID SOMETHING 100%of the time. Just like red light cameras and cops do.”

Redlight camera’s correctly identify the registration plate 100%, NOT the driver, or for that matter the vehicle if rego plate is not the correct one.

LEO’s (Cops) correctly identify the individual 100% based on the evidence at hand, this does not mean the evidence they have is correct though.

If IP addresses identified actual people 99& (or even 90%) of the time criminal courts would have no problems with IP addresses as provable evidence, when in fact even civil courts that use balance of probability have serious issues with IP addresses being specifically about an individual.

Spoofing IP though not a major problem (i’d say its even less than 1%) is NOT the problem with IP identifiers, the problem is that just because an IP might point to a specific device, it does not mean without a whole lot of further supporting evidence that a specific individual has used that IP at that point in time for an allegedly unlawful purpose.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The few geeks that spoof ips pale in comparison to the millions that don’t.

According to a private consultant who is employed by the cable companies to track down people who have faked cable boxes there are some parts of the UK where you can’t get a jury to convict people of these offences because the odds are that the jury members will be doing it themselves.

The geeks work out how to hack the boxes – then the barrowboys do it in large numbers and Joe public buys the resulting device from a bloke in the pub.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

This is true.

Of course, the AC also misses the point that the reaction to these attempts won’t go the way he wants. He assumes that the reaction by the guilty will be to stop pirating. The reality is, his industry just provided a sterling reason for the “non-geeks” to learn how to spoof & hack, and there’s plenty out there who will happily help them and provide easy tools to do so…

Zot-Sindi says:

Re: Re: Re:

IP addresses correctly ID someone 99% of the time.

proxies & IP replicators/spoofers, now what?

That’s what the court system is for: to remedy such errors.

yeah you would think but it seems to not work out that way alot of times, especially when copyright is involved it seems these errors just get abused more often than remedied

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“IP addresses correctly ID someone 99% of the time.”

Yes that they do… if fact I will go with an even higher percent than 99. You are absolutley correct – Sir.

It just may well be a person that did not commit the theft/piracy/infrigemnt/rape/speeding office/child molestation/sex with photogenic monkeys/photos of photogenic monkeys having sex/.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

uhh, Red Light cameras in one US state alone had to refund nearly half of their tickets, after the margin of error was proven false in a court of law.

And as for you second statement, what about the law on the books in Florida where it is illegal to go on a beach without a $5 foot permit if you’re wearing sandals?

Johnsmith999 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Really, Judge Birse, remember him, he was the high court judge who tried the ACS LAW/MEDIACAT debarcle earlier this year, he said in his ruling that “[The claimant?s] monitoring exercise cannot and does not purport to identify the individual who actually did anything. All the IP address identifies is an internet connection, which is likely today to be a wireless home broadband router. All [this] monitoring can identify is the person who has the contract with their ISP to have internet access. ?[the claimant does] not know who did it and know that they do not know who did it.?

the powers that be seem to have conveniently forgotton this ruling in their haste to press forward with the DEA.

Just to remind all the Trolls out there,……AN IP ADDRESS DOES NOT IDENTIFY AN INDIVIDUAL.

IronM@sk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There are more than three people in my house. House only has one IP address. Magnets?

In my country, if the police find drug paraphernalia in a shared house, nobody can be charged if the paraphernalia is in a common area, regardless of whose name is on the lease agreement.

Why should a string of ones and zeros be treated more harshly than illicit drugs?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“If you weren’t an infantile non-contributing member of society…”

Hum, (s)he’s a worthless member of society, and yet, here you are, angrily posting on a random site on the Internet about how you are morally superior to everyone else, while resisting every attempt to educate you a bit about networks and computers.

Well, at least my programs are compiling while I’m doing this. Are yours? Or are you one of those infantile non-contributing members of society I keep hearing about?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Baloney. IP addresses correctly ID someone 99% of the time.”

That is false. Have you ever heard of NAT? One IP address can be the visible face of hundreds or thousands of individual computers/devices.

Also, there are methods of disguising yourself to look like someone else (IP address spoofing). It wouldn’t be the first time someone’s (innocent) life was almost screwed because of some idiot who spoofed the IP address or hacked a router to download child porn or something.

To claim that an IP address is solid proof of anything is being at least ignorant of reality. Worst case scenarios is you being a moron, in which case, I have wasted my time here.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Yes, we people who understand IP addresses are “geeks” and should just shut up when you base criminal punishment on faulty evidence.

We’re talking about so-called evidence that’s had people sued who don’t even own a computer, dumbass. Plus, the people who don’t understand are the *victims* in these cases.

Few people know how to hard code a virus from scratch. By your logic, that means viruses aren’t a problem, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Laws are supposed to be JUST and CORRECT. There aren’t supposed to be “occasional errors”. That would mean that the laws or the mechanisms that implement them are FLAWED, which means that they must CHANGE. Either toss them away or fix them, or else those “occasional errors” will continue to pile up.

Think about it this way: if your computer does not work the way you expect it, what do you do? Do you forgive it for not working correctly, and carry on working in a non-working computer? Or do you try to fix/get a new one?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I never said that laws were perfect. I said that we shouldn’t settle for imperfection. If you have a mechanism that does not work as it should, you MUST change it until it works flawlessly. Like your computer.

You are the one that lives in a fantasy world: a world where humans are stuck being mediocre beings who settle for half-assed laws that only benefit one small subset of society, in detriment of the others. As long as YOU are ok, nothing else matters. Good luck with that.

Old Fool (profile) says:

Praise for...Murdoch?

I never thought I would say this, but nice one Murdoch!

Rupert Murdoch’s manipulation of British politicians and subsequent bad publicity has resulted in all parties having a morbid fear of ‘getting into bed’ with any media.

I’m pleased I live in a country where corruption is still frowned upon, rather than just renamed to ‘lobbying’

ohhhhhhhhh says:

HOw stronger IP laws NEVER are better for an economy.

A) actor gets his cut the labels etc and the collection agency. ALL these people get a weatlh bit that is above norm and they get enough that they can put cash away into a bank or institution and thus that money gets largely removed form economy.
B) Saying in lax countries its bad is false due to the fact money NOT given to A) which removes larger and larger chunks of money from the economy, and due to that needs to keep pushing for more and more to maintain a lifestyle that is in affect unsustainable ( see us debt and how its not going to end well)
C) Poor guy with 100$ is more apt to spend all 100$ in local eocnomies thus stimulating said economy vs as said in A) and B) where he gives say 50$ out time ssay a million others like him where of that 50 million maybe only a million gets spent and 49 million goes to a bank or institution or saved offshore to furthar reduce or evade or do tax avoidance….POOR man cant afford tax avoidance or evasion….another reason to lesson all these issues.

Copyrights at 10 years ar at what i’d call an outer limit and patents especially on drugs should be no less then 4-5 years with an option of set prices on drugs that are needed in larger quantities for governments say. WHERE they can buy out the patent for there nation without any exporting.

Duke (profile) says:


Erm… the UK has had broadcast copyright since at least 2003 – it’s in the CDPA (starting in s1(2)(b), along with other neighbouring copyrights such as in sound recordings, and it lasts 50 years. They’re not looking to create one, it already exists…

As for the web-blocking stuff, again that was misleading; they only said they wouldn’t be using the DEA web-blocking process as it was “unlikely to be effective because of the slow speed that would be expected from a full court process”. Instead the various documents mention possible voluntary web-blocking agreements with ISPs (using Cleanfeed, avoiding the courts), getting MasterCard/Visa/PayPal to block payments, getting advertisers to back away and getting the London Police to seize domain names. The web-blocking stuff is, in many ways, even worse than the Newzbin2 method.

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