UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced Thursday that Britain's intellectual property laws will undergo a review with an eye towards modernization, in an effort to encourage innovation and small business. Cameron suggested that the law may be reformed [BBC report] in order to allow for increased use of copyright material without the owner's permission. The review is set to take place over six months and will examine the interaction between intellectual property and competition law, how to remove barriers for small businesses, and how to help small businesses protect and exploit their intellectual property, and it will take into account more relaxed US rules on copyright material, including rules on the use of copyright material without the owner's permission. In April, the review will issue a report recommending changes to UK law and suggesting long-term goals for the government. The announcement, seen as an attempt to restore balance after the controversial Digital Economy Bill [text], has been cheered by Internet freedom campaigners and small businesses alike. However, reforms may be resisted by the music and film industries.
In April, the UK Parliament [official website] approved the Digital Economy Bill [JURIST report], authorizing the suspension of Internet service for those who repeatedly download copyrighted material illegally. The act also received Royal Assent [text] and is now law. The new law calls on Internet service providers (ISPs) to block download sites, reduce a user's broadband speeds and ultimately shut down a user's Internet access in order to prevent piracy of copyrighted materials. The bill, known as a three-strikes law, imposes stricter penalties on repeat digital offenders than had previously existed, and has received a great deal of public criticism. Certain ISPs have even threatened not to comply with the law, but MPs who support it say it is a necessary step to protect the creators of digital content.