Digital Economy Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 26th January 2010.

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Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Postal Affairs and Employment Relations) (also Lord in Waiting) 9:15 pm, 26th January 2010

My Lords, before speaking to these amendments I will say a few words about the Government's intentions regarding the powers contained in Clauses 18 to 20. The Government decided to seek these reserve powers because the domain names system is a crucial element of the internet economy. Domain name registries themselves have a key role in making sure that the system runs smoothly. Any disruptions could have adverse effects on business, consumers and internet users as a whole.

For most people, the sort of disruption we have in mind manifests itself in the misuse of domain names. The domain names sector in the UK is self-regulated and it has worked well for many years. The Government's intention is that self-regulation by domain name registries should continue: we want to be absolutely clear about that. The reserve powers we are seeking in the Bill will enable the Government to intervene if things start to go wrong, with self-regulation clearly failing.

The Government recently published a factsheet which I hope provided your Lordships with a bit more clarity on the circumstances in which the powers might be exercised. I know we will be covering the enforcement aspects of these powers when we examine Clauses 19 and 20, so for now I will not say anything more about this.

I turn to the amendments in question. Following representations made by the industry, the Government realised that the scope of the domain name provisions in the Bill could have unintended consequences. Specifically, the definitions in Clause 18 as currently drafted would bring any organisation or company in the UK that runs its own name server within the scope of the powers-that was not intended. Similarly, the UK-based domain name registry operations of some third countries are also caught. Again, that is not what the Government had in mind when they proposed this draft legislation.

The effect of the amendments tabled by the Government is to restrict the scope of the powers to cover just those top-level domain registries where the domain is clearly UK-related. That is where, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, the last element of the domain name will cause internet users to believe there is a connection with the UK or part of the UK. In practice, this will include the existing ".uk" and ".gb" domains, and indeed any future proposals ICANN receives for new domains which it approves-such as ".london", or even ".britfishshops". I am sure noble Lords will well appreciate that the Government will certainly be concerned about any phishing activities, if you will pardon the pun, associated with this domain. I see that joke went down really well. You can't win them all, as someone once said.

Finally, the Government have tabled a minor amendment, Amendment 223C, to the definition of an internet domain registry so that the text correctly refers to "internet protocol addresses". This is definitely one for the cognoscenti. I do not think this requires further explanation. I beg to move.


Robert Burrell Donkin
Posted on 2 Feb 2010 6:48 pm (Report this annotation)

Note that DEB allows the state to remove domain names from political websites without due process.