Thursday, 15 December 2011

Notes and thoughts from Ed Vaizey copyright and web blocking round table, 7th December

Slightly Right of Centre: Notes and thoughts from Ed Vaizey copyright and web blocking round table, 7th December: "MPAA are in the process of obtaining injunctions against other big ISPs to force them to block Newzbin (after an injunction was won against BT and other ISPs refused to implement a voluntary block). The remaining Statutory Instrument (SI) needed to complete the Digital Economy Act should be published late January. This order dictates how the process of dispatching warning letters to those accused of copyright infringement and hearing appeals will be run. After one year in operation, the warnings can be supplemented with a "3-strikes" scheme, bringing penalties -technical measures - for those accused 3 times of copyright infringement. In fact two SIs need to be approved by Parliament before the measures come in to force. Whilst one has already cleared the hurdle of notification to the European Commission (a 3-month standstill period to allow comment from other member states), the second will not start this process until end of January. The delay is so that any findings from an ongoing Judicial Review into the Act can be incorporated (this wasn't said explicitly at the meeting, but I heard this from other reliable sources). DCMS and Ofcom officials did confirm that the first warning letters are unlikely to arrive on doormats until late spring to summer 2013 - that's three years after Her Majesty signed the Act!" Just as I predicted in June 2009...but then Mystic Marsden also predicted the grounds for judicial review at the same time...

Sky blocks Newzbin, important legal and technical questions need answering

Essex Internet Law LL.M.: Sky blocks Newzbin, important legal and technical questions need answering:

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Nixon, sorry Vaizey, in China: speaking no evil

Always interesting to see what ministers say to Chinese censors about Internet security (and not mentioning human rights or freedom!) ./foiextract20111109-23016-1880fft-0:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

'Internet co-regulation' book launch 6 September 3.15pm

It is announced that the launch by Cambridge University Press and your author will be during tea on Day 2 of the Society for Legal Scholars 102nd annual conference, at Downing College, Cambridge. I will no doubt be issuing 'money off' flyers too. The book was officially released on 18 August (though websites all have the preview date of end-August).

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Levenson inquiry Part I terms of reference for regulation

In between all the police-politco-press scandal, there is a serious long-term intent: "To make recommendations: for a new more effective policy and regulatory regime which supports the integrity and freedom of the press, the  plurality of the media, and its independence, including from Government, while encouraging the highest ethical and professional standard; for how future concerns about press behaviour, media policy, regulation and cross-media ownership should be dealt with by all the relevant authorities, including Parliament, Government, the prosecuting authorities and the police."

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Ofcom Regulating the Media: Part CXXXVII

Ofcom has issued a very useful 'fit and proper person' Q&A based on section 3(3) of the Broadcasting Act. For the avoidance of doubt, let me explain that BSkyB will never lose its licences - as a judicial review of an Ofcom decision would have to consider the fact that the obscene Richard Desmond, a billionaire pornographer of the very lowest reputation, owns Express Newspapers since 2000, and in 2010 bought national terrestrial TV licencee Channel 5.
He stopped contributing to the supine Press Complaints Commission via its parent body in 2007 though was not expelled until January 2011, becoming a 'rogue operator: "They feel they can operate the principles of self-regulation themselves and don't feel they need to do that by being a member of the PCC".
He has often been reprimanded by his other self-regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority, for cross-promotions without proper flagging of advertorial amongst other transgressions. In short, he is as unfit and improper as Ofcom considers acceptable - and Murdoch would need to go some to get anywhere near his level of disrepute.
Note: Ofcom did in 2010 revoke the licence of a hardcore daytime porn channel provider that had flouted its rulings SIXTY times in short succession.
Disclaimer: I was delighted in 1989 not to have to deal with Desmond's then porn publisher Northern & Shell (he sold many grumble-mags in 2004 to clean out the print Augean stable, or rather focus on satellite TV porn channels) when at Journalists' Week.
UPDATE: Nice reminder about Russia Today, CCTV, Press TV, controlled by respectively the Russian, Chinese and Iranian governments.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Net neutrality in Europe: Stuart Kuttner's career: an exercise in self-regul...

Net neutrality in Europe: Stuart Kuttner's career: an exercise in self-regul...: "Stuart was managing editor of the News of the World from 1987-2009 - yes, he would be the perfect whistle-blower , except that he stepped do..."

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Gordon Brown on public interest in media, Cameron as News Int. interest

"In the month that I started at No. 10, there were already issues of state involving News International—a decision that the Government had to make on a Competition Commission inquiry into the recently acquired stake that brought its ownership of ITV up to 16.8%. It was for the Government to decide on any referral to the competition authority, and the Government approached this with no bias against BSkyB. However, after examining in some detail BSkyB’s activities, the Government, on the advice of the relevant authorities, found a case to answer and announced the strongest remedy possible—a referral to the competition authority, which went on to rule that BSkyB’s share purchase in ITV was not in the public interest. So far from siding with the News International interest, the Government stood up for the public interest by making the referral. While we correctly gave it time to sell its shares, its shares had to be sold. Next was the proposed Ofcom review into the onward sale of BSkyB sporting and other programmes, and the claims of its competitors that it had priced BT, Virgin and other cable companies out of the market. The public interest was in my view served by due investigation. We did not support the News International interest, but stood up for what in our view was the public interest. The Ofcom recommendation, which News International still opposes today, demanded that there be fair competition. It is no secret that the 2009 McTaggart lecture given by Mr James Murdoch, which included his cold assertion that profit not standards was what mattered in the media, underpinned an ever more aggressive News International and BSkyB agenda under his and Mrs Brooks’ leadership that was brutal in its simplicity. Their aim was to cut the BBC licence fee, to force BBC online to charge for its content, for the BBC to sell off its commercial activities, to open up more national sporting events to bids from BSkyB and move them away from the BBC, to open up the cable and satellite infrastructure market, and to reduce the power of their regulator, Ofcom. I rejected those policies...Those policies were clearly in News International’s interests, but were plainly not in the British people’s interests. The truth is there in Government records for everyone to see. I am happy to volunteer to come before any inquiry, because nothing was given: there were no private deals, no tacit understandings, no behind-the-scenes arrangements and no post-dated promises. I doubt whether anyone in this House will be surprised to hear that the relationship between News International and the Labour Administration that I led was, in all its years from start to finish, neither cosy nor comfortable.
I think that if people reflected on events as early as the summer of 2007, with the portrayal of me in The Sun as the betrayer of Britain, they would see them as somewhat absurd proof of an over-close and over-friendly relationship. Headlines such as “Brown killed my son”, which made me out to be the murderer of soldiers who were actually killed by our enemy, the Taliban, could hardly be a reflection of a deep warmth from News International towards me. The front-page portrayal of me as "Dr Evil" the day after the generally accepted success of the G20 was hardly confirmation of The Sun’s friendship and support as the world battled with the threat of a great depression...
I have compiled for my own benefit a note of all the big policy matters affecting the media that arose in my time as Prime Minister. That note also demonstrates in detail the strange coincidence of how News International and the then Conservative Opposition came to share almost exactly the same media policy. It was so close that it was often expressed in almost exactly the same words. On the future of the licence fee, on BBC online, on the right of the public to see free of charge the maximum possible number of national sporting events, on the future of the BBC’s commercial arm, and on the integrity of Ofcom, we stood up for what we believed to be the public interest, but that was made difficult when the Opposition invariably reclassified the public interest as the News International interest."

Friday, 15 July 2011

Regulatory capitalism, whistle blowers and co-regulation

It's notable that WikiLeaks has been entirely replaced as the biggest story in the British media by tabloid newspapers, specifically the Murdoch press and their control over broadcasting. This in the week of Assange's appeal against extradition to Sweden. One Australian, Mr Murdoch Senior (I know he renounced it for business interests...), replaces another. I know which is more guilty of inspiring female fear of  predation.
In regulatory terms, what we had here was, as Lord Justice Leveson said, a need to watch the watchdogs. More particularly, as the former Prime Minister explained while Tory hyenas barked - including the horrible Graham Stuart who has prettified Cambridge by moving away, and the execrable Penny Maladroit, who went to the States and worked for Dubya in 2000 and 2004 - the IPCC, PCC, police, CPS all failed to act, while News Corp. and the Conservative Party was putting pressure on Ofcom and the BBC, and select committees were being ignored. Result: the Cabinet secretary argued strongly against an independent inquiry, even non-judicial.
What Britain needs is to institute a proper system for protecting and rewarding whistle blowing in both public and private sectors - that is what should be examined as a result of WikiLeaks, the Iraq inquiry, MP expenses, phone hacking. Pigs may fly.
The reforms in the Dodd-Franks Act may be a good start, and it is encouraging to see that the practical implications appear to have created an SEC system whereby it is worthwhile for lawyers to help whistle blowers against their former employers, the masters of the universe...Reading Braithwaite last year, it struck me just how miserable Britain's record at helping whistle blowers is - maybe a reason why Colette Bowe said nothing in 1985, why we were fooled into war in 2003, why Craig Murray is so entertaining but such an example to others in the Foreign Office not to repeat his actions. The British government frame ambassadors who whistle blow, let alone soldiers such as Bradley Manning.
For Leveson LJ, it may be a step too far, but he should certainly consider regulation of broadcast TV and the Internet-  a 'press commission' would be a nineteenth century inquiry.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Leveson inquiry: plus ca change...

Tonight, News International controls 39% of BSkyB - and the Murdochs control about 36% of News Corporation. Guess what changed today? They chose not to make it a full 100% even though Mr Hunt had offered it to the Competition Commission to chew on for a year.
Meanwhile, the 2006 Information Commissioner report's biggest sinners, the Daily Mail & General Trust (see p.9), as well as pornographer Desmond's Express Newspapers and his many porn TV channels, continue to pour their effluent over British democracy.
Leveson LJ is the prosecutor who could not convince a jury to convict Ken Dodd over his extraordinary tax practices. He will soon top that with an inquiry which makes Calcutt look rational and Hutton insightful. As Simon Jenkins explains, 21st century politicians lack the balls to confront the press, they are pygmies - look at Obama with Murdoch in the US. The press is both corrupt and vital in a democracy - fortunately we have the Scott Trust, Presssdram and BBC to drag the rest  out of the slime occasionally.
And Wikileaks, unless we decide to deport the real hero (and very flawed, as all good ones should be)  in all this.
For they are all, all honourable men.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Competition Commission role in BSkyB and other regulatory matters

The Murdochs have done the only sensible thing - take media pluralism out of the hands of their politicians, who had become liabilities due to public anger, and into the hands of the non-pluralism experts at the Competition Commission (following an earlier stab at it by the Office of Fair Trading), who nevertheless had slapped Sky's wrists and forced them to reduce their ITV shareholding four years ago.
What will they investigate in terms of plurality? Well, if you look at Appendix I (yes, the ninth appendix!) of that report, which was much more broad than this (in as far as we know about this one, the terms are late being published), then they were concerned with Ofcom and others' evidence on news consumption. Note that they looked at the TGI survey which overstated Sky News' importance - it is a minor and little-watched channel in truth - as well as the overall Ofcom figures which showed that a steady 65% of the population uses TV to watch news, and 6% use the Internet - though the latter had trebled in 4 years to 2006.
Let's extrapolate forwards - if Internet use for news has grown at the same rate, which Twitter may suggest but which a maturing market may argue against, then in 2012 up to 30% of the population might rely on the Internet first. While that is unlikely, it does appear quite likely that the Internet - and its newspaper and broadcast sites - is now the second-largest medium at over 15%, with a real long-term decline in TV reliance.
What does that mean for the Competition Commission? It means they should not ignore net neutrality in their inquiry - Sky should be required to not throttle alternative video and text-based news outlets for a lengthy (say ten-year) period after News Corporation taking over. That is much more important than empty gesture politics such as that which will take place tomorrow.
As the Conservatives except for Jeremy Hunt will now vote that it is against the public interest for Murdoch to be allowed to own BSkyB, does that mean that after 8 months the Competition Commission recommendations to Hunt will then be rejected by him? Or will he gamble that by summer 2012 the public will have stopped caring?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

British government and Internet regulation: what Murdoch's press scandal tells us

For overseas readers, it's worth explaining the specific problems in the recent cause celebre - not about the incidents of voicemail hacking, but the wider picture.
From approximately 2001 until at least 2006, the News of the World (NOTW) engaged private detectives to conduct widespread hacking of celebrities, politicians and murder victims, as well as terrorist victims. It is claimed that up to eleven other tabloid (mass market) scandal sheets engaged in similar practices, and even that some were hacking each other's news desks, as well as sending Trojan horse viruses to computers, including those of British spies. The practices appear to have been enormously widespread. The Metropolitan Police knew almost all the NOTW cases by 2006 when they seized Glenn Mulcaire's notebooks with 10,000 pages of detailed notes. They had confronted the editor of the NOTW in 2002, after her reporters had spied on a murder case detective. She lied to them about the motives for the spying at that meeting.
Since 2002, the senior executives at the Murdoch press have lied to their self-regulator (the PCC) which was memorably described as being as effective as a 'fishnet condom', 'gelded' Parliament, the police some of whose members were paid for information which is a criminal corruption, and refused to appear before a Parliamentary inquiry. Any new inquiry will need to consider all these matters.
The most senior NOTW journalist now heads the UK operations of Rupert Murdoch, and will soon control the largest pay-TV operator and fourth largest ISP, BSkyB. BSkyB is licensed by Ofcom and its owner must be a 'fit and proper person' under "section 3(3) of the Broadcasting Act 1990. This requirement applies to the directors and chief officers of any corporate body intended to hold the licence, and of any person or associated corporate body of the applicant deemed to have control of the applicant for the purposes of section 357 of the Communications Act 2003 and in accordance with section 3(7) of the Broadcasting Act 1990, to be in a position to comply with other licence conditions placed upon broadcasters."
The chairman of the holding company for BSkyB at News International is likely to be Mr James Murdoch, who paid off several hackees to purchase their silence in covering up the scandal. Given that obscene pornographer 'Dirty' Richard Desmond holds the licence for Channel 5 and ruthlessly cross-promotes his media properties while lying about his porn empire, it is extremely unlikely that Ofcom will take any action.
The second most senior left the NOTW after leading the industrial scale hacking, to become spokesman for David Cameron between 2007-2011, culminating as his highest paid political staff member as Prime Minister.
This begs the question of the degree of independence of regulatory rule-making by the government in communications policy. The conclusion must be that the government has not a shred of credibility in its decision making over the media, and its censorship proposals for the Internet must be tainted by that association. Moreover, it has a dead-in-the-water press self-regulator which had been making designs on Internet self-regulation for the last five years. This is an ex-parrot.
UPDATE: the useless self-regulator (sic) PCC is to be abolished, and an inquiry started into what form of self-/co-regulation ought to replace it. Separately, an inquiry (which will achieve nothing) will be launched into why the British police were willing to walk into Parliament to seize documents from the Opposition spokesman, but not to walk into News International to prevent large-scale destruction of email evidence as well as payments to police officers and hackees in what appears to be an arguable case of conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice (indictable under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the US as News Corp. is a US-headquartered company).

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Aftermath of #eOECD continued...

There are two more interesting civil society articles, by Rashmi Rangnath of Public Knowledge and by IGP's Milton Mueller - who blogged at O646EST while we were all still in the final session waiting for the final communique (he clearly moves at Internet not Paris taxi strike speed!).
They both share praise for the inclusiveness of OECD's process - if some concern over timing of deliberation - but regret that the proposed private censorship model for intermediaries was a show-stopper despite the many good things in the rest of the document which ITAC  supported (e.g. nice piece here by Glyn Moody on HTML5 and open standards). ISOC also supported the communique, note to GIGAOM.
Milton makes the same point as I did later, that the 2008 Seoul declaration stated judicial due process, which has been dropped in 2011. Price of progress...?
Kieran McCarthy was highly pertinent, ascerbic and amusing by tweet, too. One can do many things with good or bad tools - blame them, for instance...

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Civilized Internet? Anglo-American-EU efforts to triangulate on Internet governance

I have just returned from stinking hot Paris, where the #eOECD ran a magnificently organised conference, a follow-up to Seoul 2008, Ottawa 1998 and others. It ended with Chair's conclusions, a Communique, and a proposal by the conference's prime mover, the United States delegation, to move towards OECD Guidelines for member states on Internet governance principles. It also signaled a concerted attempt to triangulate between French attempts to arrive at a civilized Internet, and the horrified recoiling to such by several Internet companies.
So what happened? Well, mainly lots and lots of bilateral meetings away from the conference floor - this was very much a 'working conference'. I indulged myself in the fantastic opportunity to meet lots of old friends and some new ones - thanks OECD for both the invitation and the deserted (and cool) Media Room, not to mention the fizzy drinks at the evening reception...
The biggest public discussion was about intermediary liability - for the background, an excellent OECD primer is now available and was distributed at the conference (its predecessor is here), citing extensively the EC study which forms the background for this 'blog of The Book'. I did not hear the word 'co-regulation' used at all, even though it was the central mechanism that might have bridged some consensus.
So the headline is that the Internet Technical Advisory Committee (ITAC) agreed to the final text, as did the member states of course, the Business Industry Advisory Council (worth checking their view on updated OECD Guidelines for multinational corporate responsibility in developing countries, Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, Vodafone please take note) and the trades unions. The civil society group did not, which some took as a sign that this first toe in the water of multistakeholderism by the OECD failed. Actually, I think that is why it succeeded, as I will try to briefly explain.
Principled objections that prevent consensus are a sign of mature discussion. Reasonable people can reasonably disagree about as fundamental an issue as the role of ISPs and other intermediaries, and Vint Cerf wearing his Google hat as well as ITAC was vociferous in explaining just how complex and dramatic a change the decision to ask intermediaries to act as copyright (and defamation, privacy, porn, extremism, security etc.) enforcers would be. In fact, there were so many speakers using different definitions of the words 'freedom' and openness' (Alec Ross' version here) that moderator Kevin Werbach was moved to state that we are separated by a common language, and to conclude that multistakeholderism is like democracy, the least worst system to discuss Internet governance. ITAC must presumably have concluded that there was sufficient good stuff in the Communique to balance out the intermediary liability element.
Civil society had flagged this concern up in their informal part in the Seoul meeting three years ago, asking OECD countries to "defend freedom of expression and, in this context, oppose mandated filtering, censorship and criminalisation of content that is protected under international freedom of expression standards." So their formal opposition to ISPs as copyright police did not come out of the blue. There have been several CSISAC statements on their opposition to the communique, including CSISAC as a whole, Knowledge Economy International, European Digital Rights initiative, Electronic Frontier FoundationLa Quadrature and others. They make clear their view of the Internet as an information commons that is open to innovation - it's well worth taking 10 minutes to watch Lawrence Lessig's eG8 presentation which puts the case well.
The context is also important - the communique was agreed by the Egyptian delegation on behalf of the new 'post-revolutionary' government that was doing this in Tahrir Square concurrently. Misunderstandings of the proposed informal private censorship model by non-OECD members are possible, to put it mildly. The US, for whom Danny Weitzner spoke eloquently and sincerely, pledged that the OECD and member states must do much more to explain to non-members - such as Egypt? - that the Principles do not permit the types of censorship that civil society illustrated. To take an example closer to home, British Telecom is being sued to block access to the NewsBin2 website, dealing with exactly that liability principle and mission creep to which CSISAC so vociferously objects. It's worth remembering the copyright industry's record in Internet innovation and growth (the conference's title) - this was the day that MySpace is sold by News Corporation for $35m. Yes, that site, that Murdoch $500m purchase in July 2005.
The future view of governments appears to be that a form of co-regulation will arrive, whether formally agreed with appropriate judicial appeal available to injured parties (as laid out in the 2008 Seoul conclusions), or as a murkier less well regulated quicker-fix political compromise (or quid pro quo with copyright lobbyists and others). Commissioner Kroes signaled a move towards a 'compact' in the direction of civic responsiblity, which suggests that there is now a 'direction of travel', if not yet a concerted push (she quotes Seneca), for more ISP activity, even if she says "it is not about regulating the Internet".
P.S. Just to prove that some ideas can be left out of the Communique because of fundamental disagreements between member states as well as other participants: the meeting produced a request from South Korea to convene a forum to discuss net neutrality going forwards. This issue divided participants, with the new Netherlands law discussed, Tim Berners Lee making a passionate defence of net neutrality and Internet access as a human right (web stream was available here, hopefully archived, TimBL very passionate), and Ed Vaizey's equally clear rejection of more than net neutrality lite, and self-regulation even for that, though also in a variety of other areas, legal and otherwise. There were also gibberish attempted scare tactics from incumbents and their suppliers about a mythical 'data explosion' which does not exist.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Guardian Books now listing us

It would be interesting to find out how comprehensive Guardian Books is - but it certainly includes CUP publications.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Internet Science meets web science meets network science meets...

One of my current (well, still on the launch pad) projects concerns what the EC calls 'Internet science'. Its clearly very closely related to web science, and to network science (which is more hard core techie) - which are apparently having their May 2012  shindigs together in Chicago.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Is Deep Packet Inspection evil?

That's an interesting part of the Alien Tort Claims Act litigation involving CiscoThe lawsuit alleges violations of the Torture Victims Protection Act and the Alien Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1350; assault and battery; wrongful death; false imprisonment; unfair business practices under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200; and distribution of wiretapping equipment in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2512: Doe et al. v. Cisco Systems Inc. et al., 11-CV-02449, complaint filed (N.D. Cal., San Jose Div. May 19, 2011)

Friday, 27 May 2011

US Executive Agencies to conduct ex ante impact assessments

From Cary Coglianese: "Rigorous, ex post evaluation research can not only help regulators understand and improve the rules under evaluation; by extension, it can also help inform future regulatory decision making... Evidence-based governance requires making more of these kinds of connections between ex post evaluations and ex ante policy decisions... By thinking hard about evaluation even during the development of a new rule, agency officials will not only be better positioned to conduct high quality evaluation research at some point down the road – but the discipline such thinking imposes should also help officials improve the design of the rule at the outset. Nearly twenty-five years ago, social scientist Serge Taylor wrote Making Bureaucracies Think, a book about how the National Environmental Policy Act imposed analysis requirements on government agencies, prompting them to think more seriously about the environmental effects of their actions. The retrospective regulatory review process Obama has imposed this year on agencies might well make a fitting sequel: Making Bureaucracies Think – Part II." 

Monday, 16 May 2011

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

ATVOD: over-paid, over-regulating over here?

Essex Audiovisual 2010: ATVOD: over-paid, over-regulating over here?: "The ATVOD funding scandal rumbles on , with the Periodical Publishers Association stating : 'essentially digital businesses are being unfair..."

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

From EDRi: German Internet blocking law to be withdrawn

EDRI 9.7: On 5 April 2011, Germany's governing conservative and liberal parties agreed in a coalition committee meeting that the disputed law on Internet blocking of child abuse material "Access Impediment Act" will be dropped. The law had been enacted by the previous parliament in June 2009, but it had never been fully implemented after the newly elected coalition decided to only use the law's provisions for take-down, not those for blocking. After a one-year "trial period", the new consensus seems to be that the law will be withdrawn through a new act of the Parliament.
There is speculation that the decision could be part of a wider "package deal" that might see Germany's data retention revived after the German Constitutional Court had declared the previous data retention law partly unconstitutional, but this was denied by speakers for Germany's liberal party, FDP. German digital rights groups welcomed the decision on the blocking law, but they will be watching how it is implemented in detail. Last EDRi-gram article on Germany's Internet blocking law, reporting on the law's history and a pending constitutional challenge that would be rendered obsolete if the law is now withdrawn (23.02.2011)

Friday, 18 March 2011

Book orders now accepted

Here's the link on the Cambridge website - email me for more on reviewing, timing and introductory offers.

Towards co-regulation? Carr on Madelin

John Carr has a lot of history as a lobbyist for Internet content regulation, and can be a thoughtful as well as provocative public policy entrepreneur. His blog post on Robert Madelin's view of content self-regulation is required reading - Madelin is something if a regulatory expert from his former role in consumer regulation - and though the word 'co-regulation' does not appear in Carr's post - be sure it is lurking ever larger in the background: “This is a crucial year for the legitimacy of the self-regulatory model.”

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Marsden response to News Corporation undertakings in lieu

Dear sirs
I am responding to your consultation on the proposed undertakings regarding the BSkyB merger with News Corporation. I am a Senior Lecturer at the School of Law of the University of Essex, Colchester, UK and a Fellow of both Keio University and GLOCOM, International University of Japan. I have published on media pluralism, network neutrality and other issues surrounding bottleneck gatekeepers in European communications since 1997. I have also consulted for various Member State governments, the European Commission itself, the OSCE and Council of Europe, as well as non-EU governments and private corporations and thinktanks during that period. My most recent book is ‘Net Neutrality: Towards a Co-regulatory Solution’ (Bloomsbury Academic, London, 2010). My blog on network neutrality in Europe has received more than 30,000 viewings in 2010.
I am responding to the consultation as an individual. None of my submission is confidential and it can be republished in its entirety on the consultation website.
Given the clear case that the proposed undertakings in lieu are worth nothing, evidenced by the behaviour of independent directors at Times Newspapers since 1981 (and especially the termination of Harold Evans at The Sunday Times: see Evans, H. [1984] Good Times, Bad Times ), and by Murdoch family control of News Corp.  with a significantly lesser shareholding than 39%, it is clear that the proposed undertakings are inadequate.
In order to enhance pluralism and diversity, it would be better, in addition to this set of undertakings, to concentrate on both:  [1] the proposed local television licences (with applicants Channel 6 and others), with a federated news provider model such as that which Viznews provided circa 1990 (itself a model for Sky regional news services at that time); [2] the addition of diversity and pluralism through online media, notably a revival of the Public Service Publisher concept, as well as provision of must-carry for local news on ISPs' video services - see my responses on network neutrality to the EC and Ofcom, as well as the report commissioned by the Council of Europe (and earlier academic articles on media pluralism and the Internet).
I therefore urge a full referral to the Competition Commission of the sector as a whole, even if political expediency suggests this particular deal will be subject to the tender mercies of the City of London rather than any regulatory intervention.
Dr Chris  Marsden
Director, EXCCEL

Monday, 14 February 2011

UK government admits Digital Economy Act will cut off poorer users

The appalling cock-up that is British government comms policy continues to mystify, stupefy, infuriate and amuse in equal measure....this time, claiming that freedom of information is a 'leak' and refusing to publicise their response in complete breach of their own information regulation. The judicial review on 22 March may be thrilling!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Codifying Cyberspace: compared to the 'Next Digital Decade'

Routledge have a new website for my co-authored book on self- and co-regulation of digital media, which pithily summarises the argument thus: 'Can the Internet regulate itself? Faced with a range of 'harms' and conflicts associated with the new media – from gambling to pornography – many governments have resisted the temptation to regulate, opting instead to encourage media providers to develop codes of conduct and technical measures to regulate themselves.' Uncontroversial in Europe, but in the US there continues to be a real Internet exceptionalism debate, summed up in the thinktank author/lobbyist contributors to this very interesting new collection. With Wu, Pasquale, Benkler and Zittrain, its a must-download and maybe a must-read.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

US - even less regulation?

TeaBaggers respond to oil spills, bank crises et all by calling for less regulation - just like Cameronian Conservatives. - great book and the curse strikes again

Just read Kieran McCarthy's book, which is fascinating for any trial lawyer, but more important for exposing NSI's rampant abuse of process in its treatment of individual registrants' appeals.
I then checked the update - made profits for the crook who stole it of $43m or more to 2000, then was sold by its rightful owner for $12-14m in 2005, and now has been resold for $13m in bankruptcy court. Everyone who ever owned the name was cursed by it.
More particularly, it made the co-regulation of non-profit Nominet in the UK particularly attractive compared to the rather despicable people then in charge at NSI.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Book now available for pre-order on Amazon

Nice to see - though note September publication date - we're in pre-production and pre-proofs so far.
Happy new year to all co-regulators (eh?)