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18 Jan 2010 : Column 867

Amendment 116

Moved by Lord Razzall

116: Clause 8, page 10, line 45, at end insert "; and

( ) requirements on the time limit for notifying subscribers which must be no more than one month"

Lord Razzall: My Lords, Amendment 116 relates to a very straightforward point. I hope that I do not require the help of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, to persuade the Government to accept the amendment, because it is so obvious that we need to protect the subscribers.

This part of the Bill is about trying to get the right balance between the interests of those who believe that downloading on the internet should be their inalienable right and those who believe that those who take copyright material are stealing it. Finding the balance between those positions is what this section is about. This straightforward amendment proposes that there should be a time limit for a subscriber to be notified of a CIR. This amendment suggests one month. We believe that that should be in the Bill because we are concerned that subscribers may not otherwise receive a notification until many months after the alleged infringement, by which time it would be very difficult for them to challenge. I hope that at this late stage the Government will accept this amendment with ease. I beg to move.

9.45 pm

Lord Howard of Rising: My Lords, we on these Benches entirely agree with the noble Lord on the need to send the notification letter as soon as possible after the relevant infringement report has been made, which, as we have said, should be sent equally soon after the alleged infringement. I am uncertain about the specification of one month as a time limit, especially because of the possibility that a second or third notification will not be sent out until a certain level of continuing breaches has occurred, which may be some time after the first breach. However, an expected turnaround time would be very helpful. I am interested to hear what sort of timetable the Minister expects the internet service providers to follow.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, the amendment would set a clear time limit of a month for how long an internet service provider has from receiving a properly presented copyright infringement report from a copyright owner to when a notification is sent to the subscriber alleged to have been infringing online if the copyright infringement report is one of those for which the code requires a notification to be generated.

The glass is still half full, but I have a good deal of sympathy with the thought behind this amendment. This is an area where speed is important and it is not reasonable to expect people to remember the circumstances around what they were doing online weeks or months in the past. We explored that area in our debate on the previous amendment. However, this is not something

18 Jan 2010 : Column 868

which we need to specify in the Bill and it might prove to be counterproductive to do so. Once a period is specified in legislation, inevitably that would be the said period. It would become the default period despite the intention and the wording making it clear that it should represent the outer limit.

This is not a risk that we should take. I anticipate that the norm between the receipt of a copyright infringement report and a notification being sent, if appropriate, will be a matter of days. If the process is fully automated-it is our view that that will happen-we may be in the realm of minutes. I would much prefer to leave the details and the essential safety nets to the code, and not take the risk of inadvertently introducing a potential drag into the system. Obviously, I note the arguments that were made. We still believe that it is proper to the code, but we will look at whether there might be some helpful parameters. On the basis of that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I suspect that this is the last amendment tonight and it is probably a good one to end on. It encapsulates the difference that has arisen on several amendments between the two Opposition parties and the Government in that where there are issues of the fundamental protection of individuals' rights, we are looking to have protections put in the Bill. I would not go so far as to say that the Minister's glass is always half full because occasionally it is half empty. Indeed, at times it is completely empty.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Razzall: I shall withdraw that. There is a fundamental difference here, and when we get to the Report stage we will want to look at the individual amendments we have moved where we feel that issues of principle arose that the Government actually agree with, so there is no disagreement between us. The only issue is whether these should be left, as the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, described them, to the bureaucrats in Whitehall. He did not say Room 101 because he does not know his Orwell, but that is what he meant. We will go through the Bill and we might even talk to the Tory Opposition about whether we can agree with them what should be put in. It is interesting that there is no disagreement between any of us, only where these issues should be enshrined-whether in the code or in the Bill. In the mean time, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 116 withdrawn.

House resumed.

Video Recordings Bill

Main Bill Page
Copy of the Bill
Explanatory Notes
5th Report from the Constitution Committee

Committee and Report

9.52 pm

The House resolved itself into Committee on the Bill. No amendments had been tabled. Report received.

House adjourned at 9.53 pm.

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