This week, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, announced the launch of a consultation on
new legislative measures to clean up the Wild West elements of the Internet. In response, music group BPI says the government should use the opportunity to tackle piracy with advanced site-blocking measures, repeat infringer policies, and new
responsibilities for service providers.
This week, the Government published its response to the Internet Safety Strategy green paper , stating unequivocally that more needs to be done to tackle online harm. As a result, the Government will now carry through with its threat to introduce
new legislation, albeit with the assistance of technology companies, children's charities and other stakeholders.
While emphasis is being placed on hot-button topics such as cyberbullying and online child exploitation, the Government is clear that it wishes to tackle the full range of online harms. That has been greeted by UK music group BPI with a request
that the Government introduces new measures to tackle Internet piracy.
In a statement issued this week, BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor welcomed the move towards legislative change and urged the Government to encompass the music industry and beyond. He said:
This is a vital opportunity to protect consumers and boost the UK's music and creative industries. The BPI has long pressed for internet intermediaries and online platforms to take responsibility for the content that they promote to users.
Government should now take the power in legislation to require online giants to take effective, proactive measures to clean illegal content from their sites and services. This will keep fans away from dodgy sites full of harmful content and
prevent criminals from undermining creative businesses that create UK jobs.
The BPI has published four initial requests, each of which provides food for thought.
The demand to establish a new fast-track process for blocking illegal sites is not entirely unexpected, particularly given the expense of launching applications for blocking injunctions at the High Court.
The BPI has taken a large number of actions against individual websites -- 63 injunctions are in place against sites that are wholly or mainly infringing and whose business is simply to profit from criminal activity, the BPI says.
Those injunctions can be expanded fairly easily to include new sites operating under similar banners or facilitating access to those already covered, but it's clear the BPI would like something more streamlined. Voluntary schemes, such as the one
in place in Portugal , could be an option but it's unclear how troublesome that could be for ISPs. New legislation could solve that dilemma, however.
Another big thorn in the side for groups like the BPI are people and entities that post infringing content. The BPI is very good at taking these listings down from sites and search engines in particular (more than 600 million requests to date) but
it's a game of whac-a-mole the group would rather not engage in.
With that in mind, the BPI would like the Government to impose new rules that would compel online platforms to stop content from being re-posted after it's been taken down while removing the accounts of repeat infringers.
Thirdly, the BPI would like the Government to introduce penalties for online operators who do not provide transparent contact and ownership information. The music group isn't any more specific than that, but the suggestion is that operators of
some sites have a tendency to hide in the shadows, something which frustrates enforcement activity.
Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, the BPI is calling on the Government to legislate for a new duty of care for online intermediaries and platforms. Specifically, the BPI wants effective action taken against businesses that use the Internet
to encourage consumers to access content illegally.
While this could easily encompass pirate sites and services themselves, this proposal has the breadth to include a wide range of offenders, from people posting piracy-focused tutorials on monetized YouTube channels to those selling fully-loaded
Kodi devices on eBay or social media.
Overall, the BPI clearly wants to place pressure on intermediaries to take action against piracy when they're in a position to do so, and particularly those who may not have shown much enthusiasm towards industry collaboration in the past.
Legislation in this Bill, to take powers to intervene with respect to operators that do not co-operate, would bring focus to the roundtable process and ensure that intermediaries take their responsibilities seriously, the BPI says.