The Chief Executive of OFCOM, Ed Richards, gave evidence to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee last week, in which he reported on progress on the copyright enforcement and web blocking parts of the Digital Economy Act 2010.
He first confirmed that the Initial Obligations Code was completed and passed to the Government “some months ago” and, now that the Judicial Review of the Act requested by BT and TalkTalk has confirmed that the Act is lawful, the draft Code would be reviewed by the Department and also sent to the European Commission for their approval. The Judicial Review did find that the requirement for ISPs to pay 25% of Ofcom’s costs was against European law, so that a replacement for the current draft statutory instrument on cost sharing would be required. Ofcom also need to set up the independent body to hear appeals against copyright infringement notices. These three activities are expected to run in parallel but all will take several months so it is thought likely to be another twelve months before the first Copyright Infringement Notice is sent out by an ISP.
On website blocking, Mr Richards confirmed that the report on practicality of this would be sent to the Secretary of State “this month”. He said that this would not provide a “silver bullet” since blocking cannot be 100% effective, but nor is it likely to be completely ineffective, though he recognised the ability of blocked organisations to change rapidly to “a fractionally different URL”[sic. Does he actually mean domain?]. The report will therefore aim to provide a balanced assessment of the various technical possibilities and the consequences of each of them. A member of the Committee, Louise Bagshawe MP, said that the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) were only seeking for 10-12 websites to be blocked, however Mr Richards pointed out that this number would significantly increase once the wishlists of film and sports rightsholders, book publishers, etc. were added.
A recording of the session is available on Parliament TV: copyright enforcement is just after 10:49, web blocking at 10:55. Shortly after 11 the questions move on to media ownership, so I’ve not listened to anything after that!