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Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Government U-turn on downloaders; parallel imports blames for pharma shortages

Government revives downloader cut-off proposal

The IPKat has learned from the BBC that the Department for Business Innovation and Skills is to consult on whether the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill should include a requirement that ISPs cut off persistent downloaders. Although Lord Carter's Digital Britain report recommended that Ofcom should explore the issue thoroughly before such a measure was taken, this would take until 2012. The Government feels that this the threats posed by online infringement could mean that this would be too long to wait. To take account of the change in position, the Digital Britain consulation period has been extended to 29 September.

The IPKat isn't hugely impressed. What's the point of commissioning such a report if you're going to brief against its measured recommendations? And wouldn't it have been more sensible to have put this proposal forward at the beginning of the consulation period, rather than halfway through?

BIS press release here.

Parallel imports lead to UK drug shortages

Also from the BBC, the news that a survey by Chemist and Druggist magazine has revealed that 90% of pharmacies have experienced difficulties in obtaining stocks of branded medicines. Some patients have suffered health problem as a result (either physical problems, or caused by anxiety when the correct drug cannot be obtained). A good deal of the blame has been placed on parallel imports into other countries of medicines intended for the UK market.

The IPKat wonders if this is another effect of the credit crunch, with the weakish pound making the UK a good place to source goods for export. He wonders if a similar phenomenon is apparent is other products. The problem though is a serious one. He has a dim and distant recollection of an ECJ case saying that sales of parallel imported goods could be stopped on competition grounds where parallel trade leads to a shortage on the exporting market, but he never thought that the UK would be affected in this way.


gyges said...

"...revealed that 90% of pharmacies have experienced difficulties in obtaining stocks of branded medicines."

Insiders tell me that some companies hoard drugs; wait for the prices to go up, and sell at these higher prices.

The Golden Gavel said...

At least the report was considered. Even though they entirely rejected the proposal, the muddled ministers can at least be a little bit informed.

Informed or not, we can expect a deformed policy. I'm reminded of US Senator Ted Stevens' famous Internet analogy: "It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes".

Internet Politics at its best.

- The Golden Gavel

Paul Jakma said...

Re cutoff: I suspect it's to try frighten ISPs into self-imposing cut-off measures to avoid worse strictures of actual legislatures, thus nicely avoiding the government having to pass legislation that possibly would be unenforceable (either by the state or by ISPs).

There is precedent for this, see late 90s wrt porn on UseNet. Which is why today in thye UK most people's internet is filtered by a state-funded yet conveniently non-governmental body (IWF).

Adrian Evans said...

The New Zealand government has been attempting to enact legislation providing for the disconnection of internet services for repeat copyright infringers over the last year or so. Following massive public outcry, the implementation of this legislation has been delayed and a discussion document regarding the process of dealing with repeat infringers has issued recently. For more information regarding the intended policy see this article.

Nathan Wajsman said...

The UK is indeed a very good place to buy things these days for us Continentals, thanks to the low Pound. In December (when the GBP/EUR was roughly the same as now) I bought a German camera from a shop in Scotland, paying far less than I would have had to pay at a comparable online retailer in Germany. Whether something similar is going on with drugs, I don't know.

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