Digital Economy Act 2017 Published

The final version of the Digital Economy Act 2017 has been published online. Some significant provisions come into force on 25 June.

 The snap election announcement meant that the Digital Economy Bill, which had reached its final stages, had the dubious benefits of ping-pong and wash-up (and perhaps some other obscure legislative processes) and, while we all knew it had received Royal Assent and become the Digital Economy Act 2017 on 25 April, only a handful of people were sure of its final form. Any doubts about its provisions have now evaporated as it has been published and can be accessed here (pdf only initially).

The long title of the Act describes it in the following terms:

An Act to make provision about electronic communications infrastructure and services; to provide for restricting access to online pornography; to make provision about protection of intellectual property in connection with electronic communications; to make provision about data-sharing; to make provision in connection with section 68 of the Telecommunications Act 1984; to make provision about functions of OFCOM in relation to the BBC; to provide for determination by the BBC of age-related TV licence fee concessions; to make provision about the regulation of direct marketing; to make other provision about OFCOM and its functions; to make provision about internet filters; to make provision about preventing or restricting the use of communication devices in connection with drug dealing offences; to confer power to create an offence of breaching limits on ticket sales; to make provision about the payment of charges to the Information Commissioner; to make provision about payment systems and securities settlement systems; to make provision about qualifications in information technology; and for connected purposes.

As well as the normal technical provisions (financial provisions, commencement, extent and short title), s 88 (Functions of OFCOM in relation to the BBC) came into force on Royal Assent. Most of the Act will be brought into force by regulations on dates to be determined but the following provisions come into force on 25 June:

  • ·        ss 1 to 3 (access to digital services)
  • ·        s 7 (application of the electronic communications code in National Parks etc)
  • ·        ss 9 to 13 (‘Other regulation of spectrum’ - largely amending enforcement powers under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006)
  • ·        ss 82 and 83 (OFCOM: reports)
  • ·        ss 84 to 86 (OFCOM: information)
  • ·        s 90 (provision of children’s programmes)
  • ·        s 91 (suspension of radio licences for inciting crime or disorder)
  • ·        s 96 (direct marketing code)
  • ·        s 97 (televising events of national interest)
  • ·        s 103 (Code of practice for providers of online social media platforms)
  • ·        s 107 (Prevention or restriction of use of communication devices for drug dealing)
  • ·        s 113 and sch9 (Band of England oversight of payment systems).

Tech lawyers will be especially interested in the final terms of s 103, which reads:

103 Code of practice for providers of online social media platforms

(1) The Secretary of State must issue a code of practice giving guidance to persons who provide online social media platforms for use by persons in the United Kingdom (“social media providers”).

(2) The guidance to be given is guidance about action it may be appropriate for providers to take against the use of the platforms they provide for conduct to which subsection (3) applies.

(3) This subsection applies to conduct which—

(a) is engaged in by a person online,

(b) is directed at an individual, and

(c) involves bullying or insulting the individual, or other behaviour likely to intimidate or humiliate the individual.

(4) But guidance under this section is not to affect how unlawful conduct is dealt with.

(5) A code of practice under this section must (subject to subsection (4)) include guidance to social media providers about the following action—

(a) maintaining arrangements to enable individuals to notify providers of the use of their platforms for conduct to which subsection (3) applies;

(b) maintaining processes for dealing with notifications;

(c) including provision on matters within paragraphs (a) and (b) in terms and conditions for using platforms;

(d) giving information to the public about action providers take against the use of their platforms for conduct to which subsection (3) applies.

(6) Before issuing a code of practice under this section, the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) those social media providers to whom the code is intended to give guidance, and

(b) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers it appropriate to consult.

(7) The Secretary of State must publish any code of practice issued under this section.

(8) A code of practice issued under this section may be revised from time to time by the Secretary of State, and references in this section to a code of practice include such a revised code.

Published: 2017-05-09T11:00:00

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