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Publishers scrap over DTI ecommerce initiative extension

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British Music Rights, whose members include composers, songwriters and music publishers, wants a greater differentiation between legitimate and illegitimate services. It told the DTI legitimate service providers have adequate protection and only illegitimate services will profit from an extension. It said members would find it “virtually impossible” to stop sites providing links to sellers of pirate or counterfeit discs, illegal music files or download and file-sharing sites.

Emma Pike, British Music Rights’ chief executive, says: “It is curious that the government has decided to reopen these discussions. The directive is an EU success story. It struck a carefully crafted balance between the interests of content owners and legitimate intermediaries and has been a key driver of online business.”

The Newspaper Society, which represents the regional newspaper industry, feels an extension could disadvantage traditional print media. The society’s political editorial and regulatory affairs director, Santha Rasaiah, says: “The DTI’s own impact assessment recognised that their introduction could encourage the appropriation of publishers’ and other right holders’ material, without the rights holders’ consent and receipt of copyright fees.

“There is a need for law reform to facilitate online publication and freedom of expression, not least in the libel area. But changes must help all those who publish online, including newspaper companies and others who generate content, host forums and stimulate exchange of information and views, but without undermining publishers’ intellectual property rights and revenues, or barring them from defences available to their commercial competitors.“

Unlike their regional counterparts, national publications will embrace an extension, as they are acting increasingly like ISPs rather than traditional publishers. One unnamed source said the current directive had created a two-tier environment, where online publishers are unable to compete effectively with ISPs. Limited liability would enable newspapers to publish or link to blogs and reader responses just as freely as ISPs.

The DTI is holding discussions with all stakeholders until the end of the year and will announce its decision in the spring.®

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