I have just submitted the UCISA response to the latest in a series of consultations on the implementation of the measures for dealing with online copyright infringement referred to in the Digital Economy Act. The consultation, issued by Ofcom, is on the Initial Obligations Code which defines how the process will operate. Further consultations will follow on the appeals process and the fees/charges to be implemented.
The consultation states that in the first instance the Code will apply to the seven biggest providers of domestic broadband connections initially but includes provision for widening the scope to other ISPs. What still isn’t clear is what ISPs or subscribers actually are. The Initial Obligations Code makes an attempt to add clarity, but it is not possible in my view for a university or college to determine its status. This has been a recurring theme throughout our responses to consultations on the Digital Economy Bill and the Digital Britain paper before it.
Regardless of what the Code says and the extent of its scope, the Digital Economy Act is not exclusive and rights holders will still have the right to submit complaints of copyright breach to universities and colleges with the expectation that they will be handled appropriately. It has been recognised that universities and colleges already have effective processes in place for handling complaints about breach of copyright. However, it was stated during the passage of the Bill through Parliament that universities, colleges and libraries would not be regarded as beyond the scope of the Act. We have, in the UCISA response, offered to work with Ofcom to establish a code of conduct encapsulates the existent good practice, adheres to the spirit of the Digital Economy Act and is acceptable to rights holders, Ofcom and the sector.
It is hoped that Ofcom will take us up on our offer. I believe that it offers a chance to add some much needed clarity in terms of how the higher and further education sectors are expected to respond to the requirements of the Act as well as being a pragmatic, low cost solution to the difficult problem Ofcom have been handed.