The Digital Economy Bill (DEB) was released on 20 November 2009, published jointly by the UK Department for Business (BIS) and the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The DEB takes forward the recommendations under Lord Carter's Digital Britain: Final Report published in June 2009.

The following is a snapshot of the key aspects of the DEB.

FILE SHARING

The DEB will provide a legal base for the Government's scheme to tackle unlawful peer-to-peer file sharing. See “Illicit P2P File-Sharing: Draft Legislation” for a review of this aspect.

FUTURE PROOFING

The Bill will amend the Copyright Design and Patents Act to enable the Secretary of State to make provision for an order to amend the Act for the purpose of preventing or reducing online copyright infringement. The idea is to allow remedies to be developed and implemented more quickly and flexibly to keep pace with and provide protection against new communications technologies that may be developed that allow copyright work to be unlawfully copied in new ways.

ORPHAN WORKS AND EXTENDED LICENSING

The Bill introduces a power for the Secretary of State to make regulations authorising the use of orphan works and extended licensing as well as the regulation of licensing bodies.

PUBLIC LENDING RIGHTS

The Bill will extend public lending rights to include digital material such as audio and e-books.

OFCOM DUTIES TO ENCOURAGE INVESTMENT

Other key proposals would strengthen the UK's communications infrastructure such as superfast broadband, via the introduction of new Ofcom (the Office of Communications: the independent regulator and competition authority for the communications industry) duties to encourage investment. In this respect, Ofcom will be required to make a formal assessment of the United Kingdom's communications infrastructure every two years. Additionally, Ofcom will be required to encourage investment in public service content.

CHANNEL 4

The Bill introduces provisions that extend the functions of Channel 4 in relation to media content. These will require Channel 4 to participate in the making of a broad range of high quality content that appeals to the taste and interest of a culturally diverse society and to broadcast or distribute such content on a range of different delivery platforms.

BROADBAND

The Bill contains provisions designed to enable development of next generation mobile broadband services by allowing for the charging of periodic payments, such as Administered Incentive Pricing, on auctioned spectrum licences and allowing Ofcom to levy monetary penalties for failure to meet certain licence conditions.

VIDEO GAMES

The Bill also provides the legislative basis for a new system of classification for video games by making age ratings compulsory for all boxed games designed for those aged 12 or above.

DOMAIN NAMES

The Bill introduces new powers in relation to internet domain names and registries. These are designed specifically to combat the unfair use of domain names or the use of unfair practices by registries, registrars and users of domain names or where registries have failed adequately to deal with complaints.

DIGITAL RADIO UPGRADE

Finally, the Bill provides the regulatory framework necessary to facilitate the move to digital switchover for radio by 2015.