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UK Intellectual Property Advisor Threatens Fresh Piracy Legislation on ISPs

Saturday, Dec 28th, 2013 (11:23 am) - Score 1,519

The UK Prime Minister’s new Intellectual Property Advisor, Mike Weatherley (Conservative MP for Hove and Portslade), has threatened fresh legislation against broadband ISPs that “knowingly facilitate illegal downloading practices” and do not take steps to stop it. But it’s unclear what could be changed that hasn’t already been tried.

The September 2013 appointment of Weatherley to his new advisory role had already raised a few eyebrows due to his less than impartial history, which has seen him campaign for the interests of Rights Holders in Parliament. Weatherley has also been a Vice President (Europe) for the Motion Picture Licensing Company since 2007.

The MP has now offered a fresh insight into his new role, which was given as part of an article for the World Intellectual Property Organization. In that he reveals some criticism of Rights Holders for being too quick to say “no” rather than “how?” when presented with ideas for new business models and a desire to foster better education for tackling Internet piracy.

But at the same time Weatherley has also hinted towards the possibility of returning to the old mantra of ENFORCEMENT through new legislation, which is an unusual call given how the Digital Economy Act’s (DEAct) system of ISP warning letters has yet to be fully introduced and might not arrive until late 2015 or 2016 (here). The related discussions over the possibility of an intermediate voluntary solution have also failed to produce a workable system.

Mike Weatherley said:

Society needs to reward those who create. The public needs to get behind the message that getting something for free (or below suitable price) for short-term personal gain, results in innovation and creativity floundering to the detriment of all. So it all starts with effective messages and education about industry’s position and the consequences of not getting the copyright policy framework right.

Industry then needs to take a lead and give consumers what they want in a rapidly changing market. Industry needs to make sure the ‘carrot’ is attractive. And then, if all else fails, there needs to be legal support from legislators.

Government must back up industry by putting the necessary enforcement mechanisms into place. This would include holding Internet Service Providers responsible if they knowingly facilitate illegal downloading practices and do not take steps to stop this form of piracy.”

The comments, given the existence of current legislation, would perhaps seem more at home in a speech from 2008. Indeed it’s unclear what new legislation could achieve that hasn’t already been tried. Websites deemed to infringe copyright are already being blocked via court orders (albeit to only questionable impact) and the warning letters should be introduced within the next couple of years, assuming they aren’t delayed or shelved again.

It’s possible that the UK might thus consider following France, which has scrapped its similar “three-strikes” style threat of Internet disconnection for repeat offenders with a system of automatic fines (here). Alternatively they could attempt to go after specific services, such as Proxy Servers and Virtual Private Networks (VPN) that make it possible to surf with some degree of anonymity, although it would be incredibly difficult to differentiate between perfectly legal and illegal use (especially on non-UK based services).

But for now Weatherley doesn’t appear to have any new ideas up his sleeve.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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