Shiny New Legislation

I was recently struck by just how new most of the legislation creating duties for operators of electronic communications network is. Compared to the Computer Misuse Act, which has only had one amendment since 1990, these laws seem to be changing a lot faster:

For at least two of those (the Digital Economy Act and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations) the details of what the duties are and who will be subject to them is left to codes that haven’t been completed yet. And although the Data Retention Regulations are reasonably clear on what information needs to be retained, you don’t know whether you are required to comply until you get a call from the Home Secretary. So at the moment a network subject to these laws clearly needs to report privacy breaches and to be ready to do something in the areas of data retention and copyright enforcement when told to. But, beyond, that about the only thing clear about what the law requires of a network operator is that it’s likely to change, and continue to change for some time.

The good news from a Janet perspective is that most of these duties fall most heavily on the operators of public electronic communications networks – for example a public network operator who unlawfully intercepts their network commits a crime for which they can be fined or imprisoned: on a private network they would only commit a civil wrong for which they could be sued by the customer(s) who had suffered damage – though in the case of the Digital Economy Act even that isn’t clear. We are definitely living in interesting times.

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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