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Traffic Lights: Creating a distinction between legal and illegal content online

Traffic Lights is an industry-led, non-legislative concept to signal the status of a site to users,
creating a clear distinction between legal and illegal content. They build upon existing tools that allow
users to assess a website and its potential risks before they download from it
Traffic Lights can help meet the consumer education requirements of the Digital Economy Act 2010
and deliver Government proposals to empower the consumer to make better choices. The scheme
sits as part of a complementary package of voluntary, legislative, and judicial measures, all aimed at
tackling online copyright infringement.
What is the problem being addressed?
At present there is contradictory information presented to consumers searching for music and other
entertainment online. It is too easy to find trusted internet sites that offer unlicensed downloads or
streams and it is too hard to distinguish between them and licensed retailers. The recent Hargreaves
IP and Growth review stated that consumers are confused because it is not always obvious whether
a music service is providing copyright material illegally. Traffic lights is a solution which addresses
this uncertainty with the intended impact that it nudges consumers in a legal (and safe) direction.
How are traffic lights a solution to copyright theft?
Traffic Lights provide a visual indication to users approaching an unlicensed site that the site is
facilitating copyright theft. The traffic light - a green tick or red cross - would appear next to a link to
the site in question. The traffic light can be applied wherever the site is, not just those in the UK,
increasing the ability of consumers to protect themselves from sites hosted abroad and increasing
their confidence in legitimate sites.
Building on existing consumer information warnings
Unlicensed sites often rank highly in
search results these sites are currently
displayed next to green ticks, cleared by
internet security software on Windows
These ticks are supposed to indicate that a site is safe from security threats like viruses, Trojan and
phishing scams but do not consider copyright infringement. This Traffic Lights proposal extends
these services to inform users of potential copyright issues with a site, as well as other unfair or
unsafe trading practices.
Traffic lights work for the moral majority
Traffic lights are part of an escalating set of sanctions to address problems online. It performs the
critical role of establishing a distinction between good and bad in the minds of users, which we hope
will be enough to deter 90% of users from accessing problem sites. This distinction is vital and
provides the bedrock for an escalating series of measures to deal with the remaining determined

How does a green / red light get awarded?

Green ticks are the default for all sites. The proposal follows the principle that sites are innocent until
guilty and therefore free to compete on a level playing field. Red lights are used to indicate a risk. We
propose building upon the existing principles of notice and takedown which is clearly established and
is used by rights holders extensively today. If a site has ignored a number of takedown requests, then
we believe that it is fair to categorise the site as a risk and show a warning signal to consumers that
are approaching it. In effect, traffic lights provide an incentive structure so that sites are encouraged
to license content legitimately as well as penalising sites that refuse to take down illegal content.
Independent Authority
Traffic lights will not be accepted
unless their source is trusted and
independent. We have therefore
designed a framework decisionmaking process to decide when a
sanction is warranted, based on the
trusted principles of notice and
The framework that we propose
would count the number of ignored
notice and takedown requests that
apply to a site, and uses that score
to decide when a sanction should be
applied. In order to collect these
from all the different rights holders, a
central and independent authority
body will be needed, which can
then take a full view of the behaviour
of a site, backed up by numbers and
evidence of malpractice.
Next steps

An example of what consumers might be able to see

Traffic Lights has a valuable role as a consumer education initiative. PRS for Music commissioned
research from Harris Interactive in September 2011 which suggested that consumers are currently
confused about which sites are licensed / unlicensed:

Only 1 in 4 say they have a complete understanding of which sites listed by search offer
licensed content and which offer unlicensed content

91% of all online music downloaders feel they would benefit from the introduction of a Traffic
Lights system to aid understanding of which sites offer licensed content

74% of those who dont exclusively download licensed music today said it would definitely /
probably / may change behaviour

We believe the traffic lights scheme would significantly help them with their understanding regarding
such a distinction.
We would like to work with ISPs, internet security software providers, rightsholders, and other
partners, to deliver this solution as soon as practicably possible.