Lords Pass Digital Economy Bill

March 16, 2010 -

The British House of Lords has pushed through the latest version of the Digital Economy Bill, which features provisions that would put the onus on ISPs to track and report illegal file sharers and copyright violators.

The Bill, which now moves to the House of Commons for approval, would have ISPs issue such reports to both the copyright owner, as well as to the British Office of Communications (OFCOM), reports a story on Beta News. If passed, OFCOM would control how ISPs monitor their users and how long information is retained by ISPs.

In order to “prevent or reduce” Internet copyright infringement, the Secretary of State may direct OFCOM to limit, suspend or cut off ISP user access for “some or all relevant subscribers.” New measures would also reportedly enable courts to force ISPs to block websites that contribute to copyright infringement.

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MP Simon Stepping Down

February 3, 2010 -

The U.K.’s Digital Economy Bill may have been dealt a setback as one of the reports main backers and authors has announced his intention to resign from Parliament.

 Labour MP Sion Simon (pictured), Junior Minister for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport will leave his post during next week's February recess according to the Financial Times.

Simon plans to become a city councilor in Birmingham and hopes to eventually run for Mayor reports the Birmingham Post, if he can convince the town to adopt an elected mayor system. He stated, "It has become clear to me that the answers to Birmingham’s problems do not lie in Westminster and Whitehall. We need to take back control of our own city."

The videogame industry may also be losing a supporter within Parliament, as Simon has often demonstrated a level-headed approach to dealing with game critics like Keith Vaz. Simon had also endorsed fellow MP Tom Watson’s pro-gamer Facebook group (Gamer’s Voice),  leaving the following message for the group:

The government understands the importance of video games. we make games better and play games more in this country than anywhere else in the world. It’s an important industry and an important part of millions of people's lives. But it's a very young industry which is still finding its voice. I think this group is an important step in that process, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

The Digital Economy Bill proposed adopting the PEGI system as the sole means of classifying games in the U.K., and was also designed to strengthen the region’s digital backbone, thorough programs such as universal broadband. The bill also proposes a tough three-strikes law to deal with Internet pirates.

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VSC Ramps Up for Future, Adds Dr. Byron to Panel

January 18, 2010 -

As the UK moves to adopt the PEGI system as a sole means for rating videogames, the Video Standards Council (VSC), which will enforce and assign actual ratings, has added additional personnel to its ranks.

One new addition to the VSC is an Expert Advisory Panel reports GamesIndustry.biz, which will feature media violence expert Guy Cumberbatch, author Geoffrey Robertson and Dr. Tanya Byron (pictured), author of the Byron Report.

VSC Chair Baroness Shephard commented:

The newly established VSC Expert Advisory Panel will play a key role. The VSC will have the ability to effectively 'ban' a videogame from supply in the UK if it infringes the limits set out in the law.  Any such decision will not be taken lightly and will involve a number of legal, clinical and psychological issues.

A trio of board members was also added to the VSC, ex-Chief Constable Tony Lake, retired Director of the Family and Parenting Institute Mary MacLeod and Chris Atkinson of the National Socitey for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

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Expansive English Game Development Hub Discussed

October 27, 2009 -

MediaCityUK, a sprawling 200-acre development in Greater Manchester, England may be the future home of a videogame development center.

As part of the Digital Britain report, the North West Regional Development Agency (NWDA) commissioned a feasibility study into such a move, proposing “a model of support which combines usability testing, applied research, internship training and public interface components in a single facility to be based at Media City” reports Crain’s Manchester Business.

While the project could begin as early as next summer, there appears to be some opposition to the project, including the “the political furore that such a move could cause in Liverpool,” home to a good number of game developers already.

Eric Hobson, CEO of developer Connect2media Ltd, expressed his feeling about the proposed project:

Having a building, whether it's in Manchester or Liverpool, isn't going to make a damn bit of difference in getting a company to stay in the UK rather than relocate abroad. What would make a difference is getting graduates through the door so they can get real experience of the industry and the industry can get experience of the graduates.

Matmi Managing Director Jeff Coghlan, whose firm makes viral games, agreed with Hobson, “The problem with our business isn't the buildings, it's with things like recruiting graduates, the educational standards and quality of graduates and tax.”

The BBC is scheduled to move five departments to MediaCityUK in 2011.

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British Tax to Spur Broadband Growth

September 23, 2009 -

In order to drive the development and implementation of “superfast broadband” throughout the country, England is set to introduce a tax on every phone line in the country.

According to the Daily Mail, Stephen Timms, Minister for Digital Britain, is attempting to initiate the levy ahead of the next elections. Digital Britain is the British government’s “strategic vision for ensuring that the UK is at the leading edge of the global digital economy.”

The tax calls for a 50p per-month, or £6-per-year (approximately $9.82 a year U.S.), additional charge on all phone lines. It’s estimated that the tariff could raise between £150 million and £175 million  (approximately $245 million to $286 million U.S.) a year.

The British government defines “superfast broadband” as the transfer of over 40 megabits per second.

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British Chancellor Discusses Economic Policy with Blitz Games CEO

July 20, 2009 -

Relations between the video game industry and the British government continue on the upswing.

In the latest indication of cooperation between the Gordon Brown government and the game biz, Develop reports that U.K. Chancellor Alistair Darling (left) took a meeting in Westminster last week with Blitz Games CEO Philip Oliver.

Darling is responsible for all British economic policy, while Blitz's credits include Fuzion Frenzy. From Develop:

According to a statement, it was Darling who requested to meet with Oliver to discuss the state of the industry and examine policies going forward.



Oliver had presented a list of arguments, arranged in part by the UK games industry body Tiga. He said it was “hugely encouraging” to see the Chancellor consult the games industry on the issues of skills and education...

The Blitz Games chief executive argued that the government should cut tuition fees for undergraduates taking mathematics and computer science degrees.

..

In April, Darling was criticized by Tiga head Richard Wilson for failing to include game developer incentives in the U.K. budget.

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Lord Puttnam: Political Legitimacy of Games Overdue

July 7, 2009 -

The political legitimacy of video games is overdue.

So says Lord David Puttnam, producer of hit movies such as Chariots of Fire and The Killing Fields. Puttnam, long an advocate of technology and the arts, also serves as a member of the recently-formed All Party Parliamentary Group on the Computer and Video Games Industry.

Puttnam made the comment during a lengthy interview with British newspaper The Guardian's Games Blog:

My own belief is that the [video game] sector should get significantly more [government] support, particularly at the entry and training level...

I'm also trying to persuade people within the interactive entertainment industry that the role they are playing, and the role that the games they develop are playing, could be far more significant in British cultural life...

What I hope we'll achieve with this new committee is the overdue political legitimacy of the games industry; to get a level of informed parliamentary understanding of interactive games... Most parliamentarians don't have a clue as regards the challenges or the opportunities the games industry faces. If for example, they had a full understanding of the levels of support the Canadians offer their industry they would, I'm sure, fall off their chairs!

As GamePolitics reported earlier this year, Puttnam called upon game makers to help spread the word about climate change.

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Basing Tax Breaks on Culture Test is Problematic, Says Head of Euro Game Devs

July 6, 2009 -

France and England both mandate that video game projects be culturally relevant in order to qualify for financial incentives. But the head of the European Game Developers Federation told gamesindustry.biz that such requirements make little sense either culturally or as a matter of economic policy.

Guillaume de Fondaumiere (left), who is also an exec with Heavy Rain developer Quantic Dream, spoke to gi.biz at the recent GameHorizon conference:

The cultural test is a problem... When you look at [European Union] rules, you have to ask: 'Actually, what is culture?' It's a national decision, so it's kind of weird that we, as the videogame industry, have to work with standards that other cultural areas don't have to follow.

To me, all games are cultural. Videogames aren't just a form of entertainment, but a true form of cultural expression, and I think that in twenty years' time this will be a given. No one will dispute that any more...

We know that tax breaks are extremely effective in stimulating an industry, and I think again that Montreal and Quebec have shown us the way...

So I think it's high time for governments, and the EU, to understand that money given in the form of tax breaks to the industry is not money thrown away. It's an investment with a very high return, so it's time that we had those breaks.

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Digital Britain: More Than Just Game Ratings

June 16, 2009 -

The release of today's Digital Britain report  is a milestone, and not just because of its video game-related news.

The BBC has a rundown of other key policy items in the document prepared by Lord Stephen Carter (left). They include:

  • three year plan to boost digital participation
  • universal access to broadband by 2012
  • fund to invest in next generation broadband
  • digital radio upgrade by 2015
  • liberalisation of 3G spectrum
  • legal and regulatory attack on digital piracy

Some of these will impact gamers as well as the general public, especially universal broadband (which the Entertainment Consumers Association has been lobbying for here in the U.S.).

As regards piracy, the British Government appears committed to taking a hard line, as the BBC reports:

The Government believes piracy of intellectual property for profit is theft and will be pursued as such through the criminal law.

Ofcom is to get powers that will make ISPs inform persistent pirates of the illegality of their actions. It will also allow these people to be identified and pursued if that action does not stop them. ISPs will also be encouraged to use bandwidth reduction and protocol blocking to stymie persistent offenders.

However, despite the changes, The Telegraph reports that the music and movie industries don't believe that the Government is being firm enough against pirates. The newspaper quotes Geoff Taylor, head of the British Recorded Music Industry:

Evidence shows that the Government’s ‘write and then sue’ approach won't work. And Government appears to be anticipating its failure by lining up backstop powers for Ofcom to introduce technical measures later. This digital dithering puts thousands of jobs at risk in a creative sector that the government recognises as the driver of the digital economy.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The Entertainment Consumers Association is the parent company of GamePolitics.

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Wonderkarpno editorials unless absolutly necessary, no scored reviews. Reviews are going to be ambiguous ala classic Nintendo Power11/24/2014 - 8:47pm
WonderkarpI decided I'm going to pull the trigger on my website I've been working on. Getting some people together. I want to make a Gaming News Site that only cares about the Games.11/24/2014 - 8:46pm
Matthew Wilsonin the end, I dont think its a big deal.11/24/2014 - 8:44pm
WonderkarpRight, I'm not going to argue with Black Manta. I've already argued once today on the Internet. Thats one time too many. Anybody hear about the Star Wars Spinoff news?11/24/2014 - 8:43pm
black mantaIf it's imprtant at all.11/24/2014 - 8:43pm
black mantaI'm with Andrew. I fail to see how this really improves anything. The importance of this is overstated.11/24/2014 - 8:42pm
Matthew Wilsonit should be obvious what those links are, but more transparency is never a bad thing in my eyes.11/24/2014 - 8:42pm
Wonderkarpyeah.11/24/2014 - 8:41pm
black mantaAll I see is GG ruining everything it touches in the name of some misguided and twisted notion of "ethics."11/24/2014 - 8:41pm
Andrew EisenWell, unless this was something the FTC was already working on. And still, it remains to be seen what its guideline updates actually say.11/24/2014 - 8:40pm
Wonderkarpand other media I suppose11/24/2014 - 8:39pm
WonderkarpI repeat, Its concidered a victory because, if its true, then it shows they are causing change in (Changes) Journalistic Practices in Games Media.11/24/2014 - 8:38pm
Wonderkarpits not the easiest "Ethical Issue" to discuss. Its more trivial. I'm playing devils advocate on this one.11/24/2014 - 8:36pm
black mantaEthics in what? Advertising? All you're doing is needlessly complicating things. There's no "victory" in that.11/24/2014 - 8:35pm
WonderkarpIts just a article's title. Its concidered a victory because, if its true, then it shows they are causing change in ethics. We were discussing those ethics11/24/2014 - 8:33pm
Andrew EisenNot knowing what cards a retailer accepts beforehand can be a headache. Not knowing the site you came from to purchase a good gets a small percentage of the sale? I'm not seeing it.11/24/2014 - 8:32pm
black mantaFurther evidence that shows just how horribly misguided this movement is.11/24/2014 - 8:30pm
black mantaSorry, no. A little blurb stating the obvious is hardly a major "victory."11/24/2014 - 8:29pm
WonderkarpI went to Costco on saturday, new costco, to sign up. and at the very end right before the membership, right as I'm swipping the card, they tol dme they only accept Amex...A little Disclosure helps11/24/2014 - 8:24pm
Wonderkarpand it just feels like having that disclosure somewhere will avoid headaches.11/24/2014 - 8:23pm
 

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