The United Kingdom Parliament has introduced the UK Digital
Economy Bill, which proposes wide-scale changes to a number of
British laws including copyright, domain names, digital radio and
television, and wireless spectrum laws. If passed, the bill will
implement a number of recommendations from the Digital Britain
panel, a task force that had been charged with ensuring that the UK
is at the leading edge of the global digital economy.
The bill would amend the Communications Act, 2003 to
require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to pass on notices of
copyright infringement received from rights holder organizations to
the ISPs' Internet subscribers. ISPs must also record the
number of notices that have been forwarded to each of their
subscribers, and compile a list (on an anonymous basis) of
subscribers who have been notified more than once. The bill
provides an avenue for copyright owners to petition a court to
obtain the identity of repeat infringers in order to pursue legal
The bill would also grant the UK Secretary of State the power to
impose further technical obligations on ISPs should the
notice-and-notice regime fail to achieve Digital Britain's
stated goal of reducing online piracy by 70-80 per cent. The
technical obligations that ISPs may be compelled to impose against
serious repeat infringers could include bandwidth capping, content
filtering, or temporary suspension of broadband connections for the
most egregious offenders.
The bill would also bring many other reforms to the digital,
information and communication sectors, including providing the
British telecommunications regulatory agency (OFCOM) with powers to
make changes to the UK radio licensing scheme and to assist the
move to digital radio. The agency would also be mandated with
promoting investment in public service content on British
television. Finally, the bill would update British domain name
distribution laws and impose age classification ratings on video
The bill recently received a second reading and is currently in
McCarthy Tétrault Notes:
The UK is just the latest country to introduce legal reforms
seeking to reduce online piracy by engaging ISPs and other online
intermediaries. Similar laws that require ISPs to implement
graduated sanctions against copyright infringers have already been
passed in South Korea, France and Taiwan. Other governments, most
recently in Italy and New Zealand, have also shown an interest in
this type of legislation. In light of the movement towards an
increased engagement of ISPs in the fight against Internet piracy,
it will be interesting to see if this recent trend in international
copyright reform is replicated here in Canada with our own
copyright reform bill, which is expected to be introduced in the
next few months.
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