Royal tech; ICE-ing infringers; sun setting on Sun Valley

First Read England’s hottest export, Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will land in LA this week to attend the Variety Venture Capital and New Media Summit. The royal newlyweds will be on hand to promote Tech City, the British government’s effort to build up a U.K. version of Silicon Alley around a cluster of tech startups in London’s East End.

Back in England, however, tech companies are pushing the government take more concrete steps.
On Monday, Silicon Roundtable, a coalition of British digital technology groups, called on Prime Minister David Cameron to fast track proposed reforms to British copyright law included in the recent Hargreaves report as a way to spur the growth of new digital businesses.

“We have been delighted by the consistent rhetoric of this Government highlighting how crucial Britain’s digital economy is to the country’s future, and we agree wholeheartedly that the sector must play a vital role in supporting the country’s recovery,” the groups said in an open letter to Cameron and other government officials. “It is now time for the Government’s fine words to be put into meaningful action if the sector is to flourish and play its role in helping to drive economic growth in the United Kingdom.”

Cameron had appointed Cardiff University professor Ian Hargreaves to examine U.K. intellectual property laws and to recommend changes needed to bring them up to date for the 21st Century. The 130-page report was issued in April and included a number of proposed changes, particularly with respect to copyright law. While some of those proposed changes would require coordination with the European Union, the Silicon Roundtable said in its letter that certain changes could be implemented unilaterally by act of Parliament:

Certain of the recommendations can be implemented by Act of Parliament or statutory instrument, and we call on the Government to draft and introduce the necessary legislation as soon as possible. These recommendations, which we refer to as the “straightforward recommendations”, include:

  • Adopting exceptions to copyright for format-shifting, parody, non-commercial research and library archiving
  • Prohibiting copyright exceptions from being overridden by contract
  • Enabling licensing of orphan works
  • Giving the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) the power to issue statutory opinions to help clarify copyright law and take other measures to help ensure that Britain’s IP system remains focused on promoting innovation and growth

No response yet from the Cameron government.

ICE, ICE, baby: Back in the U.S., the Obama Administration continues to push the envelope on copyright enforcement. In an interview with the Guardian, assistant deputy director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) Erik Barnett, said the U.S. will target any website with a .com or .net domain name anywhere in the world for U.S. prosecution if the agency believes it is violating U.S. copyright laws.

While the .com and .net top-level domains are generally thought of as global, the DNS indexes for those domains are all routed through Virginia-based Verisign, which Barnett claims gives the U.S. sufficient jurisdiction to bring charges and seek extradition of website operators.

“By definition, almost all copyright infringement and trademark violation is transnational. There’s very little purely domestic intellectual property theft,” Barnett told the British news outlet. “The jurisdiction we have over these sites right now really is the use of the domain name registry system in the United States. That’s the key.”

ICE is currently seeking extradition of Richard O’Dwyer, a British student accused of running, a web site that provides links to TV show and movie streams, most of them unlicensed.

Blocking the sun in Sun Valley: The Wall Street Journal has a pair of curtain raisers this morning on the annual Mogul-palooza in Sun Valley, Idaho, sponsored by investment bank Allen & Co. And the word is, don’t expect many big deals from any of the usual suspects.

According to the Journal, the Big Media machers attending this year’s clambake “expect to spend less time ogling hot, young tech businesses and more time discussing how they can preserve their own.”

Worse still for the vanity of the moguls, what light there is in Sun Valley is expected to fall on a crop of new media newcomers, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Zynga’s Mark Pincus and Groupon’s Andrew Mason, all of whom are making their first appearances at the confab.

Oh the humanity.