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Open Rights Group is rallying WiFi providers against DEA

Call to arms to beat down the Ofcom obligations code
Wed Jul 25 2012, 14:02
An Ofcom logo

THE OPEN RIGHTS GROUP is warning any organisation that offers a WiFi connection to heed Ofcom's Digital Economy Act code consultation before it closes.

There are just days left until Ofcom closes its consultation on the Initial Obligations Code, a document that sets out how the DEA will work in practice.

It is this code, announced by Ofcom on 26 June, that sets out what service providers must do if a rights holder suspects that one of its users is indulging in copyright infringement. Its provisions have many opponents, including service providers, but the Open Rights Group is looking for those that might be something of a forgotten victim here, the simple free WiFi connection provider.

Peter Bradwell, campaigner at the ORG, warns that the code does not include an exception for WiFi providers, meaning that any old business could have to defend itself against the financial advances of rights holders, and pay the costs associated with dealing with complaints.

Bradwell told The INQUIRER that it is important that everyone with a concern respond because Ofcom has a duty to consider all objections.

"This is a really important issue that could affect any wifi provider in the UK. Ofcom and the government have had two years to address the position of wifi providers, to make sure libraries, cafes and hotels aren't discouraged from providing access to the public. But they have not," he said.

"Ofcom has a duty to listen to those affected by these proposals. We want people who are affected by this to explain to Ofcom and the government why they should finally sort this mess out. Ofcom are running a pretty short consultation period, and the deadline is 5pm Thursday. So there's still time for people to have their say."

ORG wants concerned organisations to voice their opinions to Ofcom and to itself, asking that they do this before the deadline.

Meanwhile, earlier this week a sample of the UK's pop world appealed to the Prime Minister in a letter, begging him to end their monetary torture, remove their creative handcuffs and implement the Digital Economy Act.

The celebrities - which included Elton John, Pete Townsend, Robert Plant, Brian May, Simon Cowell and er, Katie Melua - told the Prime Minister that supporting the UK creative industries is important, especially now that we have the Olympic games, and urged him to save it.

"Britain's share of the global music market is higher than ever with UK artists, led by Adele, breaking through to global stardom. As a digitally advanced nation whose language is spoken around the world, the UK is well positioned to increase its exports in the digital age. Competition in the creative sector is in talent and innovation, not labour costs or raw materials," it said, according to a reproduction of the letter that appears at Music Week.

"We can realise this potential only if we have a strong domestic copyright framework, so that UK creative industries can earn a fair return on their huge investments creating original content. Illegal activity online must be pushed to the margins. This will benefit consumers, giving confidence they are buying safely online from legal websites."

Therefore, they added, the simple solution is to implement the "long overdue" measures of the 2010 Digital Economy Act, with the assurance that broadband providers, search engines and online advertisers will "play their part in protecting consumers and creators from illegal sites".

Earlier this month the British Phonographic Industry gave its own reminder about the need for the Digital Economy Act when in a speech its chairman, Geoff Taylor detailed some of its early successes.

"So in the last year we intervened to help Government overcome the challenge by BT and Talk Talk to the Digital Economy Act. We kept the pressure on Government to move ahead with the legislation and we are pleased that last week it finally set out the details of how the Act will work and when it will take effect," he said.

According to Taylor, evidence from France, under the Hadopi rules, suggests that only the DEA could stop "piracy".

"The Act will be the first mass programme of education for subscribers whose internet accounts are used illegally," he added. "Evidence from Hadopi in France suggests it will make a real difference to the legal market." µ


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