Google defends secret deals in clash with MPs over online news bill
The copyright reform bill that the Government is considering to reform the UK’s approach to copyright is being discussed in Parliament this week after MPs accused ministers of a “lack of transparency” over its “secret backroom deals”.
The controversial measure, which the Government claims will protect legitimate online news sites by tackling illegal pirate sites, was released by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt at the start of a day of Commons debate in Parliament.
But the bill, which the Government says will make copyright easier to enforce by empowering rights owners to monitor websites, has provoked a backlash from MPs who are concerned that it will force news sites to be held liable for copyright infringement.
The issue gained prominence after the website, The Mirror, published a full series of images in 2011 that it had stolen from other news sites. The site was then forced to apologise for the actions, but it was widely reported that the site had been a victim of illegal “pirating” by the websites that had supplied the material.
The Mirror’s then chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, who is now facing a criminal trial, said on the day the images were published that “the law needed to catch up with technology”. She made no mention of the fact that the site had stolen the images from other news sites as recently as four days before her statement was published. The newspaper subsequently had to launch an edit, which removed the story from its website.
The controversy intensified on the day of MPs’ meeting of the culture select committee where the issue also came up in the debate, with the Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake saying: “My question to the Culture Secretary is this: how is it fair to suggest that news and current affairs sites may be liable for the copyright infringement committed by news sites which are not covered by the draft reform bill?
“It is all about creating a legal duty on news publishers, but is it fair to ask them to police the internet for infringement without putting them under a legal duty?”