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'Risk of loss' gives companies a very low threshold to pursue legal action against people...

Open Rights Group identifies serious flaws in the Digital Economy Bill currently being debated in Parliament


Link Here14th September 2016
The Open Rights Group has been keeping a careful eye on the Digital Economy Bill currently being debated in Parliament.

Ten year sentences for Online copyright infringement

Open Rights Group have expressed concerns over the penalties for online copyright infringement on numerous occasions, especially in our response to the government's consultation. The overwhelming majority of respondents objected to the new ten year sentencing powers, on the basis that they are manifestly disproportionate, as the current offence is open to abuse.

Unfortunately, while the government and IPO have tried to solve the problematic part of the offence (that of " prejudicially affecting " the copyright owner) they have merely substituted it for another vague concept: that of creating a "risk of loss" to copyright holders. This creates an extremely low threshold whereby criminal liability may be imposed.

Our concern is that this can be used to target ordinary Internet users by legitimately threatening them with the maximum ten-year prison sentence. Following the consultation responses , the new definition of criminal liability was supposed to expressly state that they would be exempt.

Furthermore, stating that there needs to be "a reason to believe" that infringement will cause a loss or will create "a risk of loss" would capture a wide range of behaviour, particularly file sharing. By its very nature file sharing means that shared music, films or books can be further shared, and therefore a "risk of loss" would occur by definition from this activity.

None of the creative industries have advocated pursuing individual file sharers as criminals for this behaviour, preferring education, persuasion and non-criminal sanctions as means to deal with this unwanted activity.

However, abusive copyright owners will be able to substantiate that file sharing is a criminal matter, punishable by way of a custodial sentence. This would in particular fuel the activities of "copyright trolls". Copyright trolls currently specialise in detecting the sharing of pornographic material and sending legal threats to the potential infringers.

These speculative and threatening letters are sent in bulk to hundreds of account holders after detecting copyright infringement. The copyright trolls gain profits when a certain number respond and pay up to cease troubling them. These accusations are frequently incorrect, misleading and sent to account holders who did not sanction any such file sharing. Sending such speculative threats is unfortunately perfectly legal. This Bill, if it retains the concept of "risk of loss" will aid these threats by enabling the copyright trolls to argue that account holders may face criminal charges and ten year prison sentences.

We believe the easiest fix is to remove the concept of "risk of loss", even if the ten year sentences are retained.

 

 

There's no protection for people from age verification identity data exploitation by porn companies...

Open Rights Group identifies serious flaws in the Digital Economy Bill currently being debated in Parliament


Link Here14th September 2016
The Open Rights Group has been keeping a careful eye on the Digital Economy Bill currently being debated in Parliament.

Age verification for online pornography

Compulsory age verification poses serious privacy concerns that are not addressed within the Bill. Commercial pornographic websites may collect the exact identity details of their users, creating clear commercial opportunities for themselves.

Data collection creates inherent risks of data breaches and the lack of safeguards within the Bill creates opportunities for 'Ashley Madison' style data leaks revealing personal sexual preferences; since privacy protections are entirely absent from the Bill.

Amateur and smaller commercial websites will be unduly burdened by the Bill. Imposing the cost of age verification on them will make their existence as free and commercial entities untenable. This may also adversely affect sexual minorities by denying them the means to freely express their sexuality.

While the Bill lacks proposals for blocking websites that do not comply for good reasons, it is proposed that payment providers will also be responsible for enforcement: hardly a bullet-proof solution. Meanwhile, online pornography will still be available to those under 18, without age verification, elsewhere on the Internet.

It is concerning that these age verification solutions have arisen from the government's collaboration with pornographic producers who would themselves be able to raise additional revenue from the data collection itself. The Bill needs to reflect a clear separation of commercial interests and child protection objectives.

The role of the age verification regulator needs to be defined in more detail on the face of the Bill. Such a regulatory body may lack expertise in aspects of age verification. Thus, without clearly defined duties (such as the protection and maintenance of privacy) there is a significant risk that they will adopt superficial solutions to address complex issues.

Child protection should also be addressed from alternative perspectives. Children and young adults should receive effective education and guidance, whilst carers should be encouraged to provide protections suitable to a specific child. Such an approach is more likely to succeed without imposing significant costs, restrictions or risks on a large number of adults.

 

 

Government 'data sharing' is effectively an ID Card by stealth...

Open Rights Group identifies serious flaws in the Digital Economy Bill currently being debated in Parliament


Link Here 14th September 2016
The Open Rights Group has been keeping a careful eye on the Digital Economy Bill currently being debated in Parliament.

Data sharing

We have been involved in the process of open policy making on data sharing and we have summarised the concerns in a consultation response .

The Bill would allow for bulk sharing of civil registration data at a request of a Department. The database will include the entire population and easily poses a risk of being misused. There is lack of corresponding safeguards that would reflect the size of the database. The sharing of these common identifiers across government has the whiff of ID Cards by stealth. For these reasons, bulk powers should be removed or at least have strict restrictions posed on their use.

Safeguards for data sharing should be brought on to the face of the Bill instead of being buried in Codes of Practice. Currently the Bill is lacking transparency and for this reason it should reinstate Parliamentary approval for permanent data flows and include sunset clauses.

The proposals to share the data on people's debts across government departments show limited benefits. The provisions in the Bill are not capable of cancelling or prioritising the debt. More changes to how data is handled would be necessary to ensure that benefits are delivered.

 

 

Commented: Poking their oar into the Home Affairs chair's affairs...

Keith Vaz meanly outed as a buyer of sex by the Sunday Mirror


Link Here 7th September 2016
Full story: Keith Vaz...Keith Vaz in votes for knighthood claim
Keith Vaz use to feature frequently on Melon Farmers due a series of ludicrous whinges blaming video games for all Britain's ills. He has wisely kept quiet on the topic for the last few years though.

Now he has rather rudely been by outed as a gay customer of sex workers by the Sunday Mirror. This rather conflicts with his chairmanship of the influential Commons Home Affairs parliamentary select committee which is looking into Britain's laws governing sex work.

He conceded on Sunday that he would have to relinquish his post as chair committee, at least temporarily. Although he said he would not be making a formal announcement until he meets the committee on Tuesday, he effectively confirmed that he would have to stand aside when he issued a statement saying he did not want to be a distraction .

The Labour MP also condemned the conduct of the Sunday Mirror, saying it was deeply troubling that a national newspaper should have paid individuals who have acted in this way .

Vaz has not been overly hypocritical about sex work law, it is not as if he has been pushing for the criminalisation of people who buy sex. In its interim report on prostitution in July, the home affairs committee said:

We are not yet convinced that the sex buyer law would be effective in reducing demand or in improving the lives of sex workers, either in terms of the living conditions for those who continue to work in prostitution or the effectiveness of services to help them find new ways to earn a living.

Evaluations of the impact of sex buyer laws are largely based on data about street prostitution, and therefore offer little insight into the large parts of the sex industry which take place in various indoor environments, and there are indications that the law can be misused to harass and victimise sex workers, who are the very people whom the law is seeking to protect.

Vaz also argued in parliament that poppers should not be included in a list of substances banned by the Psychoactive Substances Act and in the paper he is quoted as telling the escorts that he did not use them himself.

Chris Ashford in his lawandsexuality blog points out that the Vaz evening of fun was not particularly unusual amongst the gay community:

It actually doesn't sound like that unusual night for many gay men who might engage in group sex bareback encounters, with some guys using class A drugs, many using poppers and perhaps some guys there who are sex workers (who may or may not be performing that identity). The problem here is that Vaz is married to a woman and has as Pink News noted , apparently been outed by this story. Vaz has generally taken liberal positions on sex work and so there's arguably no hypocrisy there.

However Journalist and equality campaigner Paris Lees commented to thesun.co.uk that Vaz was not totally above a bit of hypocrisy when he grilled her as chainman of the Home Affairs committee. She said:

This is same Keith Vaz who told me, last May, that he 'couldn't believe' I'd never met a prostitute that hadn't been forced into it.

I told him that during my time on the game, I never met a prostitute who HAD been forced into it.

Why is he paying prostitutes for sex if he thinks they are forced into it?

Offsite Comment: The outrage against Keith Vaz is nothing but Victorian puritanism

6th September 2016. See  article from politics.co.uk by Ian Dunt

He has a range of views on a range of topics. Some of them, like his obsession with violent games, are very silly. Some are downright morally reprehensible, such as his help in whipping up outrage against Salman Rushdie over the Satanic Verses. Some are perfectly commendable, such as his continued commitment to people lost and betrayed by the asylum and immigration system.

Regardless of their relative validity, they earned him enemies, who will now get involved in picking away at the remnants of his career. Not the least of these will be anti-prostitution groups, who were dismayed by a recent home affairs committee report which recommended decriminalising sex work completely. They are likely to use the story to discredit that report.

See  article from politics.co.uk

Offsite Comment: Keith Vaz's sex life does not matter

7th September 2016. See article from medium.com

In the wake of the news there are a lot of people saying uninformed shit. People who weren't there trying to rewrite Home Affairs Select Committee's hearings on prostitution. I was called to give evidence. Maybe you remember; it was in a lot of papers. Here is what really happened back in May.

All media coverage from May noted how me and @ParisLees had to stomp hard on bullshit lines of questioning from hostile MPs to get any of our points across. We went there fully expecting, and pretty much got, a beasting. Compare to the easy questions lobbed at Kat Banyard at the first hearing, who was never a sex worker and has never worked with a prostitution charity or outreach...as far as anyone can tell, her only firsthand experience with sex workers is having met me in a BBC green room once.

When I called out the committee for visiting Sweden and Denmark without meeting local sex worker-led orgs, Keith Vaz had the audacity to claim that they had. I know he was wrong; sex work organisations were shut out of the consultation visits. Why? Because Vaz had been a vocal supporter of the Swedish model. Now people are trying to imply Vaz gave us a helping hand in the results? As if.

...Read the full article from medium.com

Update: Banned from Parliament

1st November 2019. See article from politicshome.com

Keith Vaz has been banned from Parliament for six months -- but could still stand for Labour in December's snap election.

The Committee on Standards recommended the record suspension after Mr Vaz was found to have offered to buy cocaine for two male escorts

The Standards Committee report into Mr Vaz said there was compelling evidence he offered to pay for a class A drug and paid for sex.

 

 

Update: You have 9 months to amass a collection of free porn before the government bans it...

UK Government sets out new law to create an internet porn censor


Link Here6th July 2016
Full story: UK Porn Censorship...Digital Economy Bill introduces censorship for porn websites

Result of Government Consultation

The Government has published a document summarising responses to its proposals to mandate restrictive age validation requirements for porn websites. 48% of responses opposed the proposals whilst 44% agreed with the proposals. However the government made clear that they will proceed with the proposed censorship law. The consultation document reads:

It is clear from our analysis of the consultation responses that this is an issue which tends to polarise opinion, with strongly held views on either side. Overall, there was a roughly even split between those supporting age verification (44%) and those not in favour (48%). Responses from individuals made up the vast majority of those which were submitted via our online questionnaire (94%). Over half of the individuals were men, the majority of whom were between 18 and 34 years old.

Crucially, however, many of the key organisations we work with in the online child protection sphere children's charities, support and advice groups, the BBFC, internet service providers, and payment service firms and credit card companies indicated their support for the proposals, and the overriding policy goal of protecting children online.

Over a quarter (26%) of the individuals who responded indicated that they are parents or carers, and 23% of individuals said that they work with children (in the education and health sectors, working in or with churches, in voluntary roles, mentoring, and as researchers). In both groups, a majority supported the Government's approach.

Notably, pornography providers who responded to the consultation also stated their support for the protection of children online, and (with caveats) the introduction of age verification controls to protect children from content which is not appropriate for them.

As was set out in our consultation, the Government's preferred approach to delivering this commitment is to establish a new law, requiring age verification (AV) controls for online pornography this was the manifesto commitment, and following consideration of the consultation responses, remains the Government's intention.

To underpin this, we will also establish a new regulatory framework, and we will ensure a proportionate approach by enabling the regulator to act in a sufficiently flexible and targeted way.

Following analysis of the responses to the consultation, Government will now take several next steps. We will:

  1. Bring forward legislation, in the Digital Economy Bill, to establish a new law requiring age verification for commercial pornographic websites and applications containing still and moving images, and a new regulatory framework to underpin it

  2. Continue to work with payments firms and ancillary companies to ensure that the business models and profits of companies that do not comply with the new regulations can be undermined

  3. Maintain ongoing engagement with pornography providers, age verification providers, and other parts of the industry, to ensure that the regulatory framework is targeted and proportionate, to achieve maximum impact and to enable compliance

  4. Continue to work on broader internet safety issues, including work led by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), and raising awareness and resilience

Digital Economy Bill

See Digital Economy Bill progress page from services.parliament.uk
See Digital Economy Bill [pdf] from publications.parliament.uk

And indeed the new censorship law is included in the Digital Economy Bill introduced on 5th July 2016. Section 3 outlines the setting up of an internet porn censor and the remainder sets out website censorship options and financial penalties for contravening websites, their payment providers and advertisers.

The government is planning on passing the bill into law in spring 2017.

Section 3

  • 15 Internet pornography: requirement to prevent access by persons under the age of 18
  • 16 Meaning of pornographic material
  • 17 The age-verification regulator: designation and funding
  • 18 Parliamentary procedure for designation of age-verification regulator
  • 19 Age-verification regulator's power to require information
  • 20 Enforcement of sections 15 and 19
  • 21 Financial penalties
  • 22 Age-verification regulator's power to give notice of contravention to payment service providers and ancillary service providers
  • 23 Exercise of functions by the age-verification regulator
  • 24 Requirements for notices given by regulator under this
  • 25 Interpretation of this Part

 

 

Update: Soliciting the decriminalisation of soliciting...

UK Parliament Committee recommends an immediate end to laws prohibiting soliciting and brothel keeping (when adult and consensual)...but will then consider whether men should be criminalised for buying sex


Link Here1st July 2016
Full story: Criminalising Paying for Sex in England and Wales...A selfish campaign to lock up men
If the committee realises that current prohibitions endanger sex workers then it seems unlikely that they can recommend the criminalisation of men. Even if the crime of soliciting is repealed, then instead of soliciting, the sex workers will be guilty of inciting men to commit a crime.

The Committee introduces an interim report saying:

The Home Affairs Committee publishes an interim report on prostitution, saying that soliciting by sex workers, and sex workers sharing premises, should be decriminalised.

Home Office should change legislation

The Committee says the Home Office should immediately change existing legislation so that soliciting is no longer an offence and brothel-keeping laws allow sex workers to share premises, without losing the ability to prosecute those who use brothels to control or exploit sex workers. There must be zero tolerance of the organised criminal exploitation of sex workers.

The Home Office should also legislate to delete previous convictions and cautions for prostitution from the record of sex workers, as these records make it much more difficult for people to move out of prostitution into other forms of work if they wish to.

Key facts

  • Around 11% of British men aged 16--74 have paid for sex on at least one occasion, which equates to 2.3 million individuals.

  • The number of sex workers in the UK is estimated to be around 72,800 with about 32,000 working in London.

  • Sex workers have an average of 25 clients per week paying an average of 78 per visit.

  • In 2014--15, there were 456 prosecutions of sex workers for loitering and soliciting.

  • An estimated 152 sex workers were murdered between 1990 and 2015. 49% of sex workers (in one survey) said that they were worried about their safety.

  • There were 1,139 victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in 2014 and 248 in April to June 2015 (following implementation of the Modern Slavery Act 2015).

Prostitution inquiry

With regards to changing the laws on buying sex, this inquiry will continue. The Committee will be seeking further evidence on the impacts of the recently introduced sex buyer laws in Northern Ireland and France, and the model of regulation used in for example New Zealand, to make a better assessment for its final report. The laws on prostitution need ultimately to be reconsidered in the round, not least to give the police much more clarity on where their priorities should lie and how to tackle the exploitation and trafficking associated with the sex industry.

Trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation is an important and separate issue from prostitution involving consenting adults. It is too early to assess the impact of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 on levels of trafficking, but the Crown Prosecution Service identified 248 victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the first three months of the Act's operation, compared to 1,139 in 2014.

Research on prostitution

Despite the obvious difficulties involved in getting data on an essentially covert industry, the Committee is "dismayed" at the poor quality of information available about the extent and nature of prostitution in England and Wales. The figures cited above must be considered in this context.

Without a proper evidence base, the Government cannot make informed decisions about the effectiveness of current legislation and policies, and cannot target funding and support interventions effectively. The Home Office should commission an in-depth research study on the current extent and nature of prostitution in England and Wales, within the next 12 months.

Chair's comments

Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

This is the first time that Parliament has considered the issue of prostitution in the round for decades. It is a polarising subject with strong views on all sides. This interim report will be followed by final recommendations, when we consider other options, including the different approaches adopted by other countries.

As a first step, there has been universal agreement that elements of the present law are unsatisfactory. Treating soliciting as a criminal offence is having an adverse effect, and it is wrong that sex workers, who are predominantly women, should be penalised and stigmatised in this way. The criminalisation of sex workers should therefore end.

The current law on brothel keeping also means sex-workers can be too afraid of prosecution to work together at the same premises, which can often compromise their safety. There must however be zero tolerance of the organised criminal exploitation of sex workers, and changes to legislation should not lessen the Home Office's ability to prosecute those engaged in exploitation.

The Committee will evaluate a number of the alternative models as this inquiry continues, including the sex-buyers law as operated in Sweden, the full decriminalised model used in Denmark, and the legalised model used in Germany and the Netherlands.


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