Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA)

  ISPA is the trade association for companies involved in the provision of Internet Services in the UK. ISPA was founded in 1995, and seeks to actively represent and promote the interests of businesses involved in all aspects of the UK Internet industry. ISPA currently has over 170 members of varying size, representing around 95% of the UK Internet access market by volume. A full list of our members can be found at

  ISPA gave oral evidence to the Committee's inquiry last year, but would like to take this opportunity to contribute some additional comments in light of the recent publication of the Gowers Review on Intellectual Property.

  The Gowers Review was successful in creating a backdrop for a wide ranging industry discussion on intellectual property and highlighted the challenges facing content and media owners alike as we transition away from traditional media and adjust to new and innovative business models.

  Many ISPs have developed dedicated processes for receiving and handling notices from rights holders about hosted content which is suspected of infringing copyright. On the whole, the operational relationship between ISPs and rights holders is constructive. Difficulties that do arise are not from any lack of respect by ISPs for the principle of copyright. They arise mostly as a result of ISPs being put in a position where they are forced to determine whether an infringement claim is valid, and in doing so, to bypass judicial safeguards on this issue as well as safeguards which oblige ISPs to maintain confidentiality and security of content that their systems convey and which require rights holders to complete specific legal process to obtain personal data which would allow them to identify an infringer.

  As an organisation, ISPA has promoted a healthy debate on these matters which reflects the ongoing commitment of ISPA's members to constructive engagement with rights holders. In January 2005, ISPA's annual Parliamentary Advisory Forum focused on this area considering the changing landscape surrounding content online. The last ISPA Legal Forum was convened to discuss the Gowers Review and included representatives from both ISPs and right holders. ISPA is committed to working together with rights owners and early discussions with various groups, including the Motion Picture Association (MPA), have signalled the start of positive co-operation between rights holders and ISPs. This will continue to be progressed through 2007.

  We feel, however, that the Gowers Review overlooked two crucial issues.

  First, it omitted to comment on the importance of the balance of rights and responsibilities between different players in the value chain. The Copyright Directive and Electronic Commerce Directive both strike an appropriate but delicate balance as to where responsibility for particular actions lies in the value chain. It is important to recognise that this framework addresses a wide range of online liabilities, of which copyright is just one. It is therefore important that we preserve this and address the specific challenges we face, rather than undermine the legal principles on which the framework is based.

  Second, the Review reinforced misconceptions which have hampered objective debate on how to tackle the genuine challenges facing rights holders in the digital age. ISPs are often characterised as the "gatekeepers" of the Internet[76] who could, if only they tried harder, bring an end to online copyright infringement. While ISPA agrees that ISPs have a role to play in the value chain, they do not "hold the key" to reducing online copyright infringements. There are many actors involved including enforcement bodies, the general public and rights holders themselves.

  It is important that co-operation between ISPs and rights holders leads to constructive solutions that do not alienate consumers and do not lock-down innovation and growth in the digital age (for example, by creating potentially anti-competitive effects). In recognition of consumer demand, established rights holders, and not just new players, are now embracing the use of the Internet (including peer-to-peer technologies) to provide cost effective distribution and promotion of on-line services such as music and film. We would expect the progress made so far to be maintained and built upon for the future.

  It is equally important, however, that we do not over-simplify or, worse, trivialise the complexities of the challenge we face. The debate continues to mature since the adoption of the Copyright Directive alongside growing familiarity on all sides with new technologies and experimentation with new business models. We have a great deal of knowledge and experience to draw on as we move forward, but the complexity remains. So, we must also be careful that we do not have unrealistic expectations of the dialogue we are engaged in.

  ISPA is glad that the stage has now been reached where the Internet is being seen by content rights holders more as an opportunity than a threat and hopes that further co-operation can continue this trend. We remain committed to strengthening relationships and smoothing processes where we can work within the current framework.

April 2007

76   See IFPI Digital Music Report 2007. Back

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 16 May 2007