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Friday, 14 June 2013

Shocking: UK minister promotes commercial tool directly to industry at closed-door ministry meeting

On 30th May I reported yet more delays in implementing the UK's three strikes law to combat online copyright infringement.

I reported sources telling me the first copyright infringement warning letters were now unlikely to go out until 2016.

With thanks to Glyn Moody for pointing me in the right direction, it seems the government's own civil servants agree... Well, to within 6 months.

Published 5 days later on the 4th June, minutes of a recent quarterly lobby parlour, where Ed Vaizey, the UK's minister responsible for the internet, invites copyright lobbyists and global internet giants to tell him how to do his job whilst shutting out the likes of you or I, reveal:
"DCMS expects the first letters to be sent in the latter half of 2015"
Considering the Digital Economy Act was passed in early 2010 this official assessment marks a delay of well over five years.

Sources for my original story were clear that the remaining legislation - two statutory instruments (that might possibly, now, be rolled into a single instrument) - were unlikely to go before Parliament until after the 2015 General Election.

By my own estimates it will then take around 9 months to establish the systems necessary to get the first letter out, including the crucial appeals process, hence my claim of 2016.

It seems the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) thinks it can be done slightly faster, hence their note of optimism in their timetable of back-end of 2015.

Commercial infringement tool promoted

The same minutes note an alarming development.

A commercial system by whiteBULLTET,  whose representative was present at this meeting with minister Ed Vaizey, is being touted as a potential tool to prevent online advertisers serving ads on websites hosting copyright infringing content.

Alarming for 2 reasons.  Firstly, what transparency and oversight will there be for an automated system that could potentially ruin any online business unfairly accused of hosting infringing content by an automated system?

What redress will there be for websites unfairly tarred?  Will the government be culpable for any loss suffered by a legitimate business for allowing this solution to be presented to advertisers at a formal meeting held in a UK government ministry?

And the second reason for alarm: have rules concerning market procurement processes and commercial promotion been revoked?

Is it now acceptable for a UK government minister to allow a commercial company to promote what is effectively a compliance product directly to key industry representatives?

How was whiteBULLET chosen? Have any other commercial systems been evaluated? How many companies were invited to bid for this compliance work?

In fact it's even more alarming, given that the compliance element is to unwritten rules drafted by a bunch of lobbyists and endorsed by the chair, a government minister.



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