A Guide to the Digital Economy Act - Part 5

Will Tovey's picture

This is the final in a series of posts explaining what the Digital Economy Act will do, how it works and how it will affect individuals.

  1. Introduction and the Initial Obligations Code
  2. Technical Measures to Limit Internet Access
  3. Subscriber Appeals
  4. Web-blocking
  5. Other Provisions and Summary

This series is aimed at providing an objective and descriptive overview of the legislation, rather than opinion or comment on the content. Some parts may be legally technical

Other Provisions

So far, this guide has focussed on the provisions within the Digital Economy Act 2010 that deal with online infringement of copyright. This final part will briefly cover the rest of the Act and reiterate some key facts.

Internet Domain Names

Sections 19 to 21 of the Act create new sections 124N to 124R in the Communications Act that grant the government powers over the Internet Domain Registries. These powers are aimed at tackling "serious relevant failures in relation to a qualifying internet domain registry" and consist of the government being able to complain to the registrars about these unspecified failures and, if they fail to deal with them, appoint a manager to take over the registry in order to remedy the failures.

Television Channels

The following sections cover a variety of issues with television. Sections 22 and 23 include the duties of Channel 4 and the monitoring and enforcement of these duties. Sections 24 to 28 cover the licensing of channels 3 and 5, including public teletext services. This is followed by a section on broadcasting in Gaelic.

Radio services

Sections 29 to 39 contain a lot of amendments to the laws regarding radio licensing, including provisions for a digital switch-over for radio. They also grant the government permission to sell off further parts of the radio (or electromagnetic spectrum).

Video Games

Sections 40 and 41 amend the Video Recordings Act 1984 to introduce provisions about the censorship and classification of Video Games. Prior to the Digital Economy Act only the cinematic elements of video games needed to be classified, which was done by the BBFC and was only legally enforceable for particularly extreme cases. The Digital Economy Act removes the exemption for video games and adds various provisions for how they could be classified - it covers from 12-ratings and up. It also allows the government to appoint or establish a body to review and classify video games for them. It is expected that the existing body PEGI will take up this role from April 2011.

Copyright Penalties and Lending Rights

Finally, the Act makes some changes to the penalties for copyright infringement and the public lending right. Section 42 raises the limit on the fine that can be issued for criminal copyright infringement - the cap is raised from £5,000 in England and Wales, or £10,000 in Scotland, to £50,000. Section 43 extends the public lending right (which allows libraries to loan out works) to cover audio books and e-books. However, it still imposes limits such as not allowing a library to lend out such books electronically (i.e. through the Internet).

Summary

  • The measures on copyright infringement will not come into effect until January 2011 at the earliest.
  • All these measures will involve (initially) is sending letter to those accused of infringing.
  • ISPs are under no obligation to monitor their subscribers' Internet use.
  • Technical measures cannot come into force until further consultation has been done and the regulations have been approved by Parliament.
  • It is up to the copyright owner to prove the infringement happened and an IP address was used.
  • It is up the the accused to prove that they did not commit the infringement if "their" IP address was allegedly used.
  • The government could put in place a method whereby websites and content could be blocked by ISPs due to alleged copyright infringement.

This concludes the guide to the Digital Economy Act. If you have any further questions about the Act, or have a suggestion for what area of law could be covered next, please contact the author.

The author is a law student and Governor of the Pirate Party. Any comments, corrections or suggestions are welcome and can be emailed to duke 'at' pirateparty.org.uk. This should not be taken as legal advice.