This Week's Techlaw News Round-Up

Ofcom calls for evidence about second phase of online safety regulation, Ofcom launches enforcement programme regarding age assurance measures for adult video-sharing platforms, and more in this week's round-up of key UK and EU techlaw news developments not covered elsewhere on the SCL website.

UK law

Ofcom calls for evidence about a second phase of online safety regulation

In July 2022, Ofcom published a roadmap to regulation, which set out its plan for implementing online safety regulation under the Online Safety Bill. Alongside the roadmap, it published a call for evidence for the first phase of online safety regulation, which focused on the duties relating to illegal content. It has now issued another call for evidence. This one is focused on the matters that it anticipates will be included in a further consultation, which it expects to publish in Autumn 2023, for protecting children from legal content that is harmful to them. This will include draft guidance aimed at assisting services in complying with their children's access assessment duties, draft guidance about how services likely to be accessed by children can comply with their duties to undertake their children's risk assessment and draft codes of practice explaining how services can comply with their safety duties relating to protecting children from harmful content. The call for evidence ends on 21 March 2023.

Ofcom launches enforcement programme regarding age assurance measures for adult video-sharing platforms

Ofcom is opening an enforcement programme into age assurance measures across the adult VSP sector. Its objectives for this programme are to assess the age assurance measures implemented by notified adult VSPs, to ensure they are sufficiently robust to prevent under-18s from accessing videos containing pornographic material; to identify whether there are other platforms in the adult VSP sector that may fall in scope of the VSP regime but have not yet notified their service to Ofcom, as required under the VSP framework; and may not have appropriate measures in place to protect under-18s from pornographic content; and to understand from providers of adult VSP services the challenges they have faced when considering implementing any age assurance measures. This will also help Ofcom build a picture of what measures work and are proportionate to expect from different VSPs, in line with Ofcom's strategic priority of driving forward and the implementation of robust age assurance. The programme will seek to determine the scale of any compliance concerns regarding notified and non-notified adult VSPs. Ofcom will then decide whether any further action (including enforcement) is needed, and how best to address potential harm. The programme will initially run for four months.

DCMS Committee publishes a follow-up report on music streaming

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has published a follow-up report on music streaming. In July 2021, it published a report into the economic of music streaming, which called for a "complete reset" of the streaming market. In its response, the UK government described the report as "a key moment for the music industry". It set out a series of workstreams with the aims of addressing the key issues that the inquiry highlighted. The Committee's latest report following that session has two main recommendations. The first is that the Intellectual Property Office needs to provide more transparency with its working groups, which should also consider, and give greater focus to, remuneration and rights revocation. To address all these issues effectively more departmental and ministerial representation is needed from the government. Secondly, the government should take a more proactive strategic role when it comes to cultural policy, including regarding music, to ensure it takes a cohesive approach across all departments in supporting cultural production and the creative industries. A new wide ranging national strategy for music should be developed by the DCMS including an assessment of the impact of digital technology on musicians, songwriters an composers, and on the UK music industry's potential for future growth. The Committee says that it will keep this work under review and will continue to monitor economic and technological challenges and disruptions to the music streaming market as they emerge.

CMA closes cases involving ESS school software

Education Software Solutions Limited is the largest provider of school management information system (MIS) software in England and Wales. In the UK, most state schools are required to have an MIS in place to manage information on staff and students including for handling attendance and safeguarding. In April 2022, the CMA launched an investigation into whether ESS's conduct was anti-competitive by effectively limiting schools' ability to choose an alternative MIS software provider and excluding its competitors. To address the CMA's concerns, the CMA has accepted ESS's offer and signing of legally binding commitments that will enable certain schools, meaning those which had genuinely considered switching providers but reasonably concluded that they did not have sufficient time to do so, to apply to an independent adjudicator for a 12-month break clause. If granted, the clause will allow them to exit their current three-year contract with ESS on 31 March 2024 and choose an alternative provider, if they wish to. The CMA's decision to accept ESS's legally binding commitments brings the investigation to a close. The CMA will continue to monitor ESS's compliance with the commitments and intervene if it suspects a breach.

CMA publishes final order in Meta/Giphy merger inquiry

The CMA has now made its final order in the Meta/Giphy inquiry. On the making of the order, the remitted reference has now been finally determined. The CMA has found the completed acquisition by Facebook, Inc (now Meta Platforms, Inc) of GIPHY, Inc. may give ruse to competition concerns in both the supply of display advertising in the UK, and in the supply of social media services worldwide (including in the UK). Therefore, Facebook is required to sell GIPHY.

Published: 2023-01-13T10:30:00

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