A Fresh Vision for UK Internet & Content Regulation

A new article by lawyer Graham Smith, expressing his personal views on the regulation of the internet makes for interesting reading. It was published this month and covers his views as presented at the SCL Forum in September 2012. The article looks at the current state of play, as Leveson looms and decisions on the Communications Bill and social media prosecutions are considered. The article covers ATVOD and regulatory convergence, stating that ¨ATVOD remains in many people´s minds a strong contender for the title of Least Necessary Regulatory Body¨. It also looks at  Ofcom, copyright, criminal law, Internet speech and related submissions by Max Mosely to the Leveson Inquiry on this subject in light of statements made by the then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Smith, offers his recipe for Government next steps, stating that ¨The bold course of action is to deregulate and free up the Internet.  The bold option would be to say that we don’t need, and should positively discourage, content legislation specific to the Internet.  The bold course would be to say that we should minimise the use of prior restraint, avoid disproportionate sanctions, and take especial care to avoid measures that risk chilling legitimate content and speech.
The bold course would be to live up to the mantra that what’s legal offline should be legal online, by acknowledging that general laws of content framed with due regard to freedom of speech – and nothing more, especially no special Internet statutes and no Internet content regulators – should apply to both offline and online content.  That means repealing at least s 127 of the Communications Act 2003.  The bold course would also include abolishing ATVOD in favour of the Irish AVMS implementation model, putting the Digital Economy Act out of its misery and rejecting Max Mosley’s prescription for the Internet.

The entire text is well worth reading and you can find it here on the website of  SCL, the IT law community, which is the leading UK organisation for legal professionals advising and practising within the IT sector.