U.K. Retailers Hit Out At Digital Economy Act's Lack of Progress
U.K. Retailers Hit Out At Digital Economy Act's Lack of Progress

A lack of progress in implementing the U.K. Digital Economy Act is costing British retailers millions, according to U.K. trade body the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA).

Speaking at the organization's annual general meeting, held in London yesterday (Sept. 14), ERA chairman Paul Quirk called the British government's sluggish execution of the Digital Economy Act "unacceptable."

Following years of lobbying by the U.K. music industry for the introduction of anti-piracy legislation, the Digital Economy Act was given Royal Assent on April 8 2010 (passing the bill into law) and came into force June 8 last year. The Act, which contains a number of measures designed to curb online infringement of copyright, includes the implementation of a notification system (overseen by telecoms regulator Ofcom) whereby illegal downloaders receive warning letters and persistent offenders can potentially face court action. At the time of the Act's passing it was believed that the first notification letters would be issued early 2011, but, to the consternation of retailers and rights holders, little progress has been made.

"The best information we have is that the first letters to suspected filesharers will not be sent out until the second half of 2012 and disconnections of persistent pirates will not happen before 2013," Quirk told the audience at ERA's AGM. "This is unacceptable. We need action on internet piracy and we need it now," he went on to say.

Referring to figures from the Official Charts Company (OCC), Quirk said that since the DEA had come into effect 14 months ago the annualized value of U.K. music and video sales has declined by £250 million ($395 million). According to OCC numbers, total album sales for the 52 week period up to June 8 2010 accounted for £1,098.1 million. For the 52 week period leading to Sept 11 this year that figure had fallen to £965.6 million - a drop of £132.5 million ($210 million). Reflecting the continued growth of digital, singles sales during the same period climbed from £132.2 million to £152.3 million - an upswing of £20.1 million ($32 million). Total retail sales (including music and video), however, fell from £3,356.9 million to £3,102.1 million - a drop of £254.8 million ($403 million).

"Not all of that decline is down to piracy," stated Quirk, "But a substantial part of it certainly is and every further day of delay will only make those losses greater."

In related news, yesterday also saw U.K. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt call on net firms, advertisers and credit card companies to cut ties with websites that link to copyright infringing content.

"Unlawfully distributing copyrighted material is theft and a direct assault on the freedoms and rights of creators of content to be rewarded fairly for their efforts," said Hunt in a speech at the Royal Television Society convention, held in Cambridge, England.

"We do not allow certain products to be sold in the shops on the High Street, nor do we allow shops to be set up purely to sell counterfeited products. Likewise, we should be entitled to make it more difficult to access sites that are dedicated to the infringement of copyright," continued Hunt, as reported by the BBC.

Several of the anti-piracy provisions outlined by the U.K. Culture Secretary are expected to be included in a new Communications Bill, which is scheduled to be passed into law in 2015.

According to the BBC, proposed measures include:

* A cross-industry body to be charged with identifying infringing websites against which action could be taken.

* A streamlined legal process to make it possible for the courts to act quickly.

* A responsibility on search engines and ISPs to take reasonable steps to make it harder to access sites that a court has deemed contain unlawful content or promote unlawful distribution of content.

* A responsibility on advertisers to take reasonable steps to remove their advertisements from copyright infringing sites.

* A responsibility on credit card companies and banks to remove their services from copyright infringing sites.