Digital Economy Bill: Industry disputes gov't claims

Digital Economy Bill: Industry disputes gov't claims

Summary: ISPs are fiercely contesting government claims that they support the Digital Economy Bill's anti-copyright-infringement measures, while Telnic has warned of official threats to Icann's authority


ISPs have strongly disagreed with government claims that they back the anti-copyright-infringement measures proposed in the Digital Economy Bill, and UK-based registries have expressed outrage at the idea of the government seizing control of domain-name registration.

The bill, unveiled on Friday, would make it possible to have persistent file-sharers of copyrighted material disconnected from the internet. It would also allow the government to take over the allocation and registration of domain names by UK-based registries.

In a Friday morning briefing, Stephen Timms, the minister heading up the bill's passage into law, said: "If you look at the ISPs who serve the great majority of the UK... there is a reasonable measure of acceptance of the way we are proposing to do it.... I think BT is comfortable with what we're proposing."

Shortly afterwards, the ISP Association (ISPA), which represents UK ISPs, issued a statement saying it "strongly opposes" the measures proposed by the government — measures, such as repeatedly notifying users that they are suspected of sharing copyrighted material, that ISPs would have to fund.

"ISPA members are extremely concerned that the bill, far from strengthening the nation's communications infrastructure, will penalise the success of the internet industry and undermine the backbone of the digital economy," the industry group said.

Nicholas Lansman, ISPA's general secretary, said in the statement that the government's proposals were "being fast-tracked... and will do little to address the underlying problem".

"Rather than focusing blindly on enforcement, the government should be asking rights holders to reform the licensing framework so that legal content can be distributed online to consumers in a way that they are clearly demanding," Lansman said.

ISPA said it supported the notification system, but rejected the idea that it had to pay for any of it, saying rights holders should "shoulder this burden including reimbursement of ISPs' reasonable costs ". ISPs "should not incur costs for pursuing alleged civil infringements," ISPA said.

BT, which Timms said at Friday's briefing was "comfortable" with the government's proposals, said it had "real concerns about the government's plans and the lack of legal protections for accused individuals".

In a statement on Friday, BT said: "We believe that technical measures are not the way forward and that a system of court fines for repeat infringers is preferable."

Another part of the Digital Economy Bill covers the UK domain-name registry system. The bill would allow the business secretary, Lord Mandelson, to appoint anyone he "thinks appropriate" to take over the property and affairs of a UK-based internet domain registry.

There are two domain registries based in the UK — one is Nominet, which administers .uk; the other is Telnic, which administers .tel.

An official summary of the Digital Economy Bill indicates that the government's proposed changes are mainly inspired by .uk — according to the government, abusive practices such as cybersquatting, drop-catching (where a recently expired domain name is automatically snapped up) and phishing have been reported in connection with this top-level domain (TLD).

The summary also noted "disruptions at board level at Nominet", and questioned Nominet's ability to self-regulate effectively. Therefore, according to the summary, the government is "proposing to take reserve powers which could be used to enable it, in certain circumstances, to regulate the allocation and registration of domain names by registries established within the UK's jurisdiction".

Nominet subsequently issued a statement, saying it believed "the reserve powers set out in the Digital Economy Bill will not be needed and that together with our membership Nominet will be able to introduce the constitutional reforms needed to allow .uk to continue to be operated responsibly and in the public interest".

The other UK-based registry, Telnic, said the government had notified it — informally — of its plans one week ago.

"Telnic is dismayed at this proposal," the registry said on Friday. "In it, the UK government proposes giving itself the power to dismiss and replace the management board of any registry operating in the UK." Telnic pointed out that the wording of the proposed changes will affect its TLD, .tel, which is regulated — as with all non-country-specific TLDs — by Icann.

The registry noted that Icann has only just gained independence from the US government "precisely because there was concern internationally about any one government having actual or perceived control over the domain name space".

"As currently phrased, this bill may be misunderstood as an attempt by the UK government to overrule Icann's authority, without any attempt to canvas the views of the industry such a move would affect," Telnic said.

Icann was not able to offer comment at the time of writing.

Topics: Broadband, Government UK, Networking

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • Policy is Truth

    A classic New Labour implementation of the good old "Policy is Truth" effect. Their policy is simply that they know bestest about most things, but in this instance about the digital economy and the ways of the mighty interweb. They know that BT agree with them, so it doesn't matter what BT actually say (and for once they are talking some sense) the government will keep trotting out the line that the ISPs all agree with them. Because the policy is that it's fine so that is therefore The Truth. There's no point arguing against The Truth, because to do so simply proves that you are wrong.

    Oh and you gotta read this page:

    The Dunning
    Andrew Meredith
  • Where's my comment gone?

  • It appears that the ISPA has a much smaller budget for lobbying than . .

    the "media mafia".

    They continue to talk about Intellectual Property as if that was a truth.
    It is NOT.

    Rights ( actually previliegies granted by the public, and as such can be reduced or otherwise amended by the same public ) are not properties. They are what the word says : rights.

    When I lease a car I have the Right (the previlege) to use it, but it is certainly NOT my property.

    As long as they keep lying about this, do not expect too much truth in any other statements they give out.
  • Regulation & More Civil Servants

    Despite the oft assertations from the government, particularly the unelected Mandelson, that they are working to reduce regulation and red tape, this is a prime example of preparation to impose a new range of regulatory of censorship and control.
    The regulation will be by senior civil servants who will impose their decisions, based on their personal opinions, upon us all, abetted by incompetent ministers.
    This whole unecessary thing will require a new batch of civil servants at more expense to the economy.
    It will, of course, result in moves to overseas based Registries.
  • Well of course...

    Lets face it them old favors are being cashed in now aren't they, because this government aint going to be around this time next year.
  • Comment quarantined

    @CA Your comment has been quarantined for moderation as it contravenes our code of conduct. For more information on this, please see my blog post:,1000000567,10014018o-2000342797b,00.htm
    Karen Friar
  • Ooer

    Crikey fella, what did you say ? :-)
    Andrew Meredith
  • Uhm..

    Can't quite remember tbh, but something that got me going, it was a fire and forget moment. :s

    Consequently for the people interested in this article should read this;