Burnham Still Vague On Digital Britain

The upcoming publication of the Digital Britain report will see communications regulator Ofcom playing a greater role in regulating P2P file-sharing, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said less than 24 hours before Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s latest cabinet shuffle saw him appointed Minister of Health.

But he shed very little light on how the system will work – a job that will be left to Ben Bradshaw, who has moved from The Department of Health to replace him.
With only two weeks until the publication of Digital Britain, Bradshaw will likely have his hands full sorting out the details.

Burnham told the Music Week conference on Making Online Music Pay that it’s “highly likely” there will be a basic requirement for ISPs to notify “serial infringers,” although he admitted there’s still no definition of a “serial infringer.”

Communications Minister Stephen Carter has already said the idea of setting up a rights agency, which was brought up in the interim Digital Britain report published in January, isn’t gathering much support.

Many Euro MPs are against people being cut off from the Internet without being found guilty of illegal file-sharing in a court of law, and many British MPs may feel the same way.

His conference speech at London’s Mayfair Hotel June 4 indicated that he and Carter were hoping that having Ofcom sitting in judgment may prove an effective compromise.

Burnham said they intended to give Ofcom powers to apply technical measures, presumably cutting off Internet supplies, which would mean the U.K.’s independent regulator and competition authority for the communication industries would be the copyright law enforcer.

Apparently aware of the potential difficulties with getting full support from his own party when it comes to disconnecting people’s Internet services, let alone cross-party support, Burnham was still be hoping the music companies and the ISPs can hammer out a solution.

“Don’t wait for the heavy hand of government, do it now,” he told the Music Week gathering, asking both sides to find common ground.

The new conference was set up to give practical solutions on how the music industry can make money out of the digital realm.

It also included panel discussions on “How can the ISPs help the music industry?” as well as three separate sessions for established online music channels such as audio, video and mobile.