The UK government has now issued its final Digital Britain report, alongside a speech in the House of Commons by culture secretary Ben Bradshaw. The main part of interest for the music industry is the ‘Creative Industries in the Digital World’ section. Here’s the main points:- Piracy is a serious offence, says the government, and it’s looking for a reduction “of the order of 70-80% in the incidence of unlawful file-sharing”.- It stresses the importance of offering legal business models that “give the consumer or the fan highly affordable and convenient content”, as well as education for consumers and parents about the “dos and don’ts” of copyright law.– “Commercially-led solutions remain by far the preferred approach”. The government will look to Ofcom to work with the government and other regulators to set out guidelines on how technical piracy-fighting measures can be introduced without conflicting with consumer privacy.- “The Government is therefore consulting on a proposal to legislate to give Ofcom a duty to take steps aimed at reducing copyright infringement”. Now that’s a sentence.- But it specifies that ISPs will have to accept two specific conditions – warning customers when informed in “an agreed format” that they’ve been illegally file-sharing, and an obligation to maintain and make available – if requested by a court order – data on serious repeat infringers. “This will allow targeted court action against those responsible for the most damaging breaches of copyright”. In other words, it’s down to labels to sue, rather than ISPs to cut off access.- “We hope that an industry body (the ‘rights agency’ envisaged in the Interim Report or ‘rights authority’ as some now term it) will come into being to draft these codes for Ofcom to approve and we would encourage all rights holders and ISPs to play a role in this”. Not exactly tough talk, but Ofcom will impose its own code of practice if the industries can’t agree on one.- Ah, those “technical measures” alluded to by the then-culture secretary Andy Burnham earlier this month. Ofcom can force ISPs to implement such measures against the most serious repeat infringers, namely: “Blocking (Site, IP, URL); Protocol blocking; Port blocking; Bandwidth capping (capping the speed of a subscriber’s Internet connection and/or capping the volume of data traffic which a subscriber can access); Bandwidth shaping (limiting the speed of a subscriber’s access to selected protocols/services and/or capping the volume of data to selected protocols/services); Content identification and filtering– or a combination of these measures.”- Ofcom will have to establish a “baseline level of unlawful file-sharing activity” at which these measures kick in. There’s a couple of clauses going into at what point additional measures kick in – the “trigger mechanism”, which is related to how many warning letters have been sent out, and how many of those consumers have stopped file-sharing. If the percentage isn’t close to 70%, additional measures will be triggered.- In a nutshell, the technical measures won’t kick in unless the notification process has not been successful in reducing file-sharing by 70% after one year. So we have 12 months of warning letters before ISPs will have to start messing about with customers’ connections.- In the section on copyright, the report admits that “rights clearance and the visibility of rights is a major issue. We must find better ways of navigating the system… Too often the existing systems seem to be breaking down.” Consultation to continue for the rest of this year with the various stakeholders.- Finally, Spotify gets a shout-out (well, whatever the equivalent is for these kind of governmental reports – ‘sober boxout’ probably) for being an innovative new business model.

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