Newzbin and the Digital Economy Bill

March 29, 2010

I was quite pleased about the MPA’s win over Newzbin. I have my doubts about agnostics in all fields but the idea that you can run a content indexing site and be ‘content agnostic’ is stretching things. They get no sympathy from me and I suspect that the legal arguments that might have been made for Newzbin were damaged by a general lack of credibility. It is pretty clear that Mr Justice Kitchin was a bit doubtful about the evidence from Newzbin – there were no dogs with MBAs but he took a robust view of Newzbin’s attempts to emulate Lord Nelson (‘Copyright infringement, I see no copyright infringement’). I bet Viacom are desperately hoping that Mr Justice Kitchin can be transferred to sit at the elbow of Louis Stanton in New York in their dispute with YouTube.

In an interesting addendum to its press release welcoming the judgment, the Motion Picture Association included the following Q&A:

{i}Q) If existing legislation can be used to address online copyright infringements, why do rights holders need the proposed clause 18 in the Digital Economy Bill?

A). The industry has long stated that there are many issues that need to be addressed to reduce Piracy. We are pleased this ruling has established that it is proportionate and reasonable for courts to order UK-based sites to implement measures to address online theft.
Now that the principle is beyond doubt, clause 18 in the Digital Economy Bill will clarify a more efficient framework for delivering relief to rights holders promptly and that will reach sites outside of the UK. In many cases – for example with a leaked pre-release film [or an untelevised sporting event] available online – time is of the essence. Clarification that we are able to go to court quickly and have the evidence assessed in time to prevent infringements happening, is very much to be welcomed. Clause 18 has not been about creating new rights and obligations – the objective is to clarify the law and render it more effective.{/i}

I especially admire their confidence about the content of the Bill, and clause 18 in particular, when most of us are still awaiting the reading of the runes or the result of ‘wash up’ (I appreciate that cynics think they know because they have written it). But I also admire their perception. It is a good question. Is it as good an answer?