DEB – Government confused, let’s help

The Government has published a factsheet on the position of universities, libraries and others under the Digital Economy Bill. On how these organisations fit the Bill’s definitions, they conclude:

Without examining the situation for each university and their relationship with JANET, it is not possible to say whether JANET is acting as an ISP or not; nor is it clear whether a university is a subscriber, ISP or is simply not in the scope of the Bill. As such, we cannot say simply who the ISP is and who is the subscriber, only that this is something that each university would have to look at and establish for themselves.

On the face of it this looks like a nightmare, with a court case potentially needed to for every university and college to determine where its copyright infringement notices should be sent! However there is recognition of the good work we are already doing:

It is clear that JANET and some universities already take far stricter action on copyright infringement than is being proposed in the Bill


It does not seem sensible to force those universities who already have a system providing very effective action against copyright infringement to abandon it and replace it with an alternative.

and there is at least a suggestion of how most universities will fit into the Bill’s definitions:

in most cases though JANET is acting more as a communications provider and the university itself might be regarded as the ISP.

In fact JANET-connected organisations do have two important things in common with ISPs for the purpose of the Bill:

  • Their IP address allocations are published, as are their contact addresses for complaints;
  • They are able to identify and educate individual users.

So the simplest resolution of this for both organisations and rightsholders appears to be for JANET-connected organisations to continue to receive copyright notices from rightsholders, to act effectively to deal with breaches, as required by the JANET AUP, and thereby to more than satisfy the requirements that the Bill places on ISPs. One requirement of the Bill may not be covered by current practice – when a single individual has been the subject of more than a certain number of complaints they have to be added to a serious infringers list, an anonymised copy of which must be provided to rightsholders on demand. Details of how these lists will be managed will only become clear once the Bill becomes law and a Code of Practice is approved by OFCOM, but if we can continue to dissuade copyright infringers from repeated offences then there should be little additional burden.

[UPDATE – this has been picked up by the BBC]

By Andrew Cormack

I'm Chief Regulatory Advisor at Jisc, responsible for keeping an eye out for places where our ideas, services and products might raise regulatory issues. My aim is to fix either the product or service, or the regulation, before there's a painful bump!

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