Copyright trolls operating in the UK will be doing so a little less confidently this morning after being slammed in
the House of Lords yesterday. Lord Lucas named and shamed several companies involved in the practice, describing them as scammers and extortionists while urging the government to take action.
The Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill was introduced in the House of Lords during May 2016.
Among other things, the draft legislation aims to protect companies and individuals from threats of expensive IP litigation where no infringement has taken place.
While aimed largely at patents, trademarks and other design rights, during a Lords Grand Committee hearing yesterday the hot topic of unfounded threats against Internet users was thrust onto the agenda. Lord Lucas , who previously tackled the infamous
ACS:Law, was again at the forefront. He said:
The world is full of people who like to play a junior game of what this bill addresses. A few years ago I had a small role in the demise of ACS Solicitors which were thankfully sacked by the law society
They were shaking down Internet users for allegedly infringing copyright on pornography and other low grade media. Their evidence was extremely suspect and was never tested in court. ACS made its money from their threats and never took anyone to court,
though it used the courts to target its victims via Norwich Pharmacal Orders .
Some careless person has dropped blood onto the ashes of ACS and the same scam is alive again. The same thin evidence. They have an IP address, they have not revealed how they get that IP address. But, given that IP address, they go through the same
Norwich Pharmacal [ISP disclosure] procedure.
This time, to remove the vulnerability that ACS found, the solicitor involved, Wagner and Co , withdraws after obtaining the Norwich Pharmacal Order, so they're not involved in the threat processes which are undertaken by shell companies. There doesn't
seem to be any redress for people threatened or for ISPs who are asked to comply with Norwich Pharmacal orders.
If anybody comes across the names of Hatton and Berkeley , RangerBay, GoldenEye International , Mircom International and TCYK...I really urge them to put [their correspondence] in the bin. The current scammers aren't pursuing anyone [in court]
they're just after threats, and extortion, and shaking people down.
I applaud our government for helping businesses avoid unjustified threats but I would really like to know what they intend to do to help the granny [ accused by TCYK recently ] who is being threatened by their smaller, nastier cousins with allegations
that she has been downloading illegally.
MPs have voted in the final Commons stage of the Investigatory Powers Bill. They voted in favour of the bill by 444 to 69.
Some MPs - particularly Joanna Cherry, David Davis, Alistair Carmichael and Stephen McPartland - did a great job in putting the Government under pressure. SNP, Lib Dem and Green MPs voted against.
The Bill will now be debated in the House of Lords
The Open Rights Group have highlighted the Filter as the nastiest part of the bill which unifies website history and communication records into a single searchable database. The group explains:
The bill is very long and complex, and hundreds of amendments have been proposed. However, the Request Filter in particular is receiving far too little attention . With a huge range of issues to deal with, the Request Filter has been absent from
the discussions from the front benches, despite being the one of two completely new developments in the Bill. As the IPB enters report stage we need to ensure that the Filter gets the attention it deserves from MPs.
The Request Filter is described by the Home Office as a safeguard designed to reduce the collateral intrusion produced in searching for small, specific information in a large dataset. In reality, the Request Filter would allow automated complex searches
across the retained data from all telecommunications operators.
This has the potential for population profiling, composite fishing trips and the unaccountable generation of new insights. It is bulk data surveillance without the bulk label, and without any judicial authorisation at all. The Food Standards Agency will
be able to self-authorise itself to cross reference your internet history with your mobile phone location and landline phone calls--and search and compare millions of other people's records too.
Queries can be made across datasets. Location data - which pub you were in - can be compared with who you phoned, or which websites you visit. All with great convenience, through automated search. The searches will be increasingly focused on events, such
as a website visited , or place people have gathered, rather than the suspects. This is the reverse of the position today, which requires the police to focus on suspects, and work outwards. In the future, with the Filter, any query can examine the data
of thousands of innocent persons - to check that they don't fit the police's search criteria.
The idea of passive retained records, that lie unexamined until someone comes to the attention of the authorities, will lie dead. The data becomes an actively checked resource, allowing everyone's potential guilt to be assessed as needed.
The Filter creates convenience for law enforcement queries, and pushes practice towards the use of intrusive capabilities. It lowers the practical level on which they are employed. Techniques that today would be used only in the most serious crimes,
because they require thought and care, tomorrow may be employed in run of the mill criminal activity, public order, or even food standards, as the bill stands.
The Filter was at the centre of debates when the original Snooper's Charter was first introduced in 2012. Parliament described the Request Filter at the time as essentially a federated database of all UK citizens' communications data .
This dystopian surveillance tool should be stopped, and next week MPs will have the chance to do it. There are several amendments presented by the Lib-Dem MP Alistair Carmichael that aim to remove the filter.
Another MP, the Conservative Stephen McPartland , who was part of the Science and Technology Committee and understands the implications of the Filter, has tabled a series of amendments with measures designed to constrain the power. These include
restricting the Filter to exceptional circumstances, putting it under the control of the Judicial Commissioner as other bulk powers, and bringing it into the statute book as formal Regulations - so it is subjected to the normal transparency and processes
of judicial review.
It is important that all those amendments get debated. We want the complete removal of the filter. McPartland's amendments describe the minimum requirements even a proponent should be seeking, but more importantly give MPs an opportunity to be told what
the filter is, what it is capable of, and why the government plans so little oversight for it.
The nature of the Filter must be discussed to expose the Orwellian doublespeak characterisation by the Home Office of this surveillance tools as a safeguard to improve privacy.
The criminalisation of payment for sex would dissuade sex workers from reporting violence against
them, Brooke Magnanti, the former London call girl better known by her alias Belle de Jour, has told a group of MPs.
Appearing before a home affairs select committee hearing on prostitution and the sex industry, Magnanti said:
If you criminalise buying sex, the prostitute knows she becomes the evidence. Police will be instantly suspicious, they ask to see your papers, examine your premises. She might be coerced by police into giving evidence against other people.
Magnanti said MPs needed to focus on the root causes driving people into sex work:
Things like migration policy and the social safety net. You have people who are marginally in the black going into red because of the bedroom tax, and the failure of the social system to catch them.
Magnanti appeared alongside Paris Lees , a journalist and equality campaigner who has also previously been a sex worker. Both were critical of the witnesses the select committee had called to question as part of the inquiry. Of the four sex
workers you've spoken [to] face to face, three of us aren't doing it any more, Magnanti told the committee's chair, Keith Vaz
The committee is nominally looking into the way prostitution is dealt with in legislation, and in particular whether the balance in the burden of criminality should shift to those who pay for sex, but the selection of those participating in the
debate suggest that the committee is biased towards criminalising men who buy sex.
Online harassment and abuse is stifling debate and ruining lives , according to Yvette Cooper , who is calling on
police and prosecutors to follow the Guardian's lead in unmasking the true extent of the problem.
The Labour MP claimed that misogyny, racism and homophobic abuse were all growing online.
The comments come after the Guardian launched a major series called the Web We Want , which revealed the darker side of online comments on its own website, generally disagreeing with the extreme PC nonsense peddled by Guardian writers.
Cooper called for online threats, harassment and stalking to be included in the Crime Survey for England and Wales, and said other media providers should carry out research similar to that done by the Guardian.
Cooper has also launched a campaign called Reclaim the Internet , which will hold a conference in late May. It is an allusion to the feminist campaign, Reclaim the Night. It will focus on how police and prosecutors can tackle hate crimes, threats
and intimidation. It will also look at how social media platforms can be persuaded to be more proactive about censorship.
Executive Summary @ Criminal law is inappropriate for regulating consenting adult sexual activity, including sex work.
Criminalisation of either sex workers themselves or their clients has the effect of stigmatising sex workers unfairly.
It prevents some people who lack the capacity to maintain long-term intimate relationships, such as those with severe physical disabilities or the elderly, from pursuing their legitimate interest in sexuality.
It puts sex workers in an antagonistic position with public authorities, reducing the personal security of sex workers .
It can create opportunities and temptations for police officers to engage in opportunistic or predatory behaviour.
It can prevent sex workers integrating into normal labour market activity, such as making national insurance contributions and developing a credit record. These are essential for personal savings and accessing long-term legally secured housing.
Maria Miller, the Conservative former culture secretary and equalities minister has claimed that Britain needs better internet laws to
stop online abuse that may be creating a nightmare for society in future.
Now the chair of the Commons women and equalities committee, she said the government needed to wake up to some of the problems the internet was creating, from vile abuse on social media to easy sharing of violent explicit images among young people.
In 2014, ministers quadrupled the maximum six-month prison term for internet insults to two years. The time limit for prosecutions has also been extended to three years.
Miller now says that the laws around insult and harm on the internet could be updated further and internet companies could do more to act against threatening and abusive material online. She claimed:
We need better laws and we need better enforcement. Government needs to stop allowing internet providers from hiding behind arguments about the protection of free speech.
The problem is rooted in the fact that many internet companies won't acknowledge that they can challenge, and should stop, criminal behaviour, saying they are just like the postal service and can't help that people use their services for criminal
activity, that it's not their problem. It is their problem and we need to sit up, take notice and realise that we are creating a nightmare future.
People are unleashing their inner venom in a way I just do not think is healthy for society. We have got to have an honest debate about this. Too many people in government are saying it is all about freedom of speech and it is not.