Ofcom & the Digital Economy Act #deact #debill #naughtylist

This entry was posted by on Friday, 23 April, 2010 at

I read an interesting blog post this morning by Trefor Davies which highlighted some further important questions about the Digital Economy Act including the speed with which the code is being brought in and the lack of consultation. The site listed a phone number to call (0300 123 3000 or 020 7981 3000) and to ask for Ed Richards, the Chief Executive. Unfortunately they aren't allowed to put calls through to Mr Richards so I was put through to a very knowledgeable gentleman called Campbell Cowie who I believe is helping to formulate the code which the act calls for. It was a very useful conversation, he explained that they were putting through the act as stipulated which required them to have a code in place by January 2011 and they had started work on this code very quickly. In fact, the meeting request for the first consultation went out the day after Royal Assent and the first meeting took place just one week later. They were ready to go from the start and anxious to met the demands that the Act requires, how different from the normal public impression of quangos and public bodies….

Mr Cowie informed me that consumer groups, ISPs and rights holder had all been contacted to be part of the consultation but that many of the smaller ones had been unable to make it, maybe something to do with the quick turnaround time between assent, meeting request & meeting taking place!!! The plan is to have a draft code in place by mid-may which will then be further consulted on. I have a couple of questions which remain unanswered.
  1. Why are the government pushing for such a quick implementation of a code like this?
  2. Why are all consultations in London? Surely there are ISPs based in other parts of the country?
  If you would like to be a part of the consultation then I believe the correct email address is [email protected] – I will be emailing and asking for them to come and meet with the people concerned in my part of the world, maybe you could as well?

Before finishing the call, Mr Cowie and I discussed a few of the measures which will be taken by the Rights holder under the new code which slightly differed from my understanding of the bill:
  1. To clarify, there are no technical measures yet, this is anticipated to be brought in at the behest of the secretary of state at this time. Any tech measures will require a new code and secondary legislation to be voted on by the house. We still have the chance to stop this, email your candidates now and get some assurances. When they get in power keep raising the matter with them and make sure that they know we're not going away.
  2. In the meantime, the code will say that:
  • if you accused of infringing copyright the rights holder will go to court and get authorisation for your ISP to release your name and address
  • You will receive a letter which will highlight what you are alleged to have been doing and when.
  • If you are accused of infringing copyright a certain number of times(this hasn't been decided upon as yet) then you will be placed on a list(Lets call it the naughty list). 
  • The naughty list can be requested by a rights holder so they can see information about you and then take further court action should they want to.
  • Ofcom will keep a record of the infringements and undertake independent monitoring to try and obtain figures about money lost to illegal filesharing. I will be very interested to see how independent these figures are and how they compare to the BPI figures rubbished so brilliantly by Dr Ben Goldacre. This monitoring will also highlight the entertainment industry efforts to provide legal downloads for us.
  • To sum up, in my view, this is a poorly thought out law being implemented in record time with consultation times in the weeks rather than months which it deserves. The "naughty list" will help to pave the way for the disconnection that will inevitably come in 2012 and will assist large corporations to maintain the status quo and ultimately control how we consume media to an even greater level.