Digital Economy Bill: What It Means For Us (#DEBill)Written by John Thompson on April 5, 2010 · Filed under Tech
You may be aware that the Digital Economy Bill has caused quite a debate amongst some over the past few months, and since initial plans were announced its faced strong opposition by many in the UK.
A campaign launched by ISP TalkTalk aimed at the UK government called ‘Don’t Disconnect Us’ has gathered momentum, obtaining thousands of signatures in the process – a little ironic when you consider it’s not long since it was the UK government who was promoting their “Online Basics” campaign and get more people using the Internet, not to mention the Budget 2009 that promised broadband for all.
TalkTalk aren’t the only ISP that are concerned about the DEBill either, with BT voicing their concerns about what the bill will mean for ISP’s and their customers across the UK. Some of the clauses of the DEBill are not only somewhat vague, but expensive to customers as a result of this. Take clause 14, for example, which says that customers must take “reasonable steps” to stop their network being used by hackers for illegal purposes.
Leaving aside what is defined by the very lose term of “reasonable”, no doubt this will involve many consumers purchasing newer routers, or making sure they enable ‘security’ on their old ones. There’s one major flaw in this though: the average home owner won’t know their wireless ADSL router needs security, never mind the fact that they will then have to choose between ‘WEP’ and ‘WPA’ on a drop down menu without knowing the difference! Of course, anyone with a decent knowledge of wireless networks will be able to decrypt a WEP key in under a minute with the help of easily obtainable tools from the Internet, but that’s ok, so long as it’s classed as a ‘reasonable’ step…
The main source of complaints from internet users is steamed from the section of the DEBill aimed at reducing online piracy and copyright theft. It’s resulted in many vehement debates, and is the biggest source of opposition for the bill. What does the bill mean for file sharers then? ISP’s will be required to hold anonymous reports on copyright infringement for each of their customers, and a three-strike-rule will most likely be put in place. This means that you’ll receive several warnings from your ISP before having your internet connection ‘suspended’.
On the surface it seems like a fair enough policy, but it presents a multitude of problems elsewhere in many other sectors of the economy. A clause such as this being passed would almost certainly end free wi-fi in coffee bars and hotels across the country, with no company willing to risk prosecution under the act for what someone else has illegally downloaded on their network – in a similar manner to how a UK pub got fined £8000 for pirated downloads that one of their customers had downloaded using the pub’s wireless internet connection.
It seems painfully obvious to me that the government is simply missing the point here. There are so many flaws on these two points alone, and so many ways that people will be wrongly prosecuted or cut off from the internet for things that aren’t their responsibility. Any possible punishment as a result of having an illegal file downloaded on your home network will fall on whoever’s paying for the internet.
In many cases, it won’t be the completely unaware parent that is downloading the files, but their children who don’t see the illegality in downloading an MP3 track off a file sharing network to put on their iPod Touch. What right do the government or a third party contractor have to prevent us from viewing sites that, in their view, allows ‘substantial infringement’ of copyright? I believe they have a word for that: censorship.
What’s worse is that the Digital Economy Bill may not even be debated before being passed. It will get a second reading this Tuesday in the Commons, which is the same day that Gordon Brown’s expected to call the General Election. This means that it could become law during the ‘wash-up’ process, whereby bills already passed through one part of parliament can be quickly made formal without any debate. Almost 20,000 letters have been sent to MPs asking for a full debate on the Digital Economy Bill, but the chances of it happening are slim, especially after Gordon Brown’s announcement this coming Tuesday, in the meantime you can find out what people are saying about it on Twitter by searching for the #DEBill hashtag.
Via – PC Pro