Redacted documents reveal UK’s complicated copyright stance

Two official documents with large swaths of redacted text show some of the ideas that went into last year’s Digital Economy Act, which is highly controversial for Britons and digital rights observers.

The documents were obtained by the Open Rights Group, a British non-profit that focuses on civil rights online, and which has been opposing the Act, especially provisions which could block websites or deny internet access to groups or individuals found to be in violation.

Redacted documents reveal UK's complicated copyright stance
by Iker Merodio, licensed under CC-BY-ND 2.0

One success was scored in the name of those rights this week, as Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced that the website blocking provision of the Act will not be enforced, and that “format shifting”—making copies of media into different file formats—would be made explicitly permissible.

That said, the content of the documents may be enough to incite outrage despite such rights concessions. The document implies that despite the apparent two-year-long attempt to include the public in the discussion in the run-up to passage of the Act, the intent of Parliament was always to pass the legislation, and that media industry leaders were essential in making this the default stance.

One of the documents details a meeting between Lucien Grainge, CEO of Universal Music Group, and the bill’s sponsor, Lord Mandelson. In it, Grainge discussed the possibility that ISPs should monitor their networks for copyright violators, and send lists of offenders to rights holders. He then mentioned a Deep Packet Inspection system called CView, employed by Virgin Media to monitor its networks. Virgin and Universal currently have a content deal in the works, but there’s no word as to whether CView reports are part of the deal.

The second document largely has to do with the costs associated with enforcement of copyrights, largely by assuring the “quality” of infringement notices, but does show that the Government rejected an Office of Communications request to allow infringement notice appeals on “any reasonable grounds”.

Some United Kingdom citizens are outraged by this shady behavior, and rightfully so.