Monday, 17 August 2009

Digital Economy Bill, Digital Britain implementation report, ISPs as enforcers

A Digital Economy Bill, outlined in the draft legislative programme published on 17 August 2009, follows on from last week's Digital Britain Implementation Plan, August 2009 (on the implementation plan see the reports from Computing and ComputerWeekly (entitled "Digital Britain implementation plan: Government seeks control of UK internet domains"). Here's the main Digital Britain page.

The Bill will include:

  • "delivering a universally available broadband in the UK by 2012 through a public fund, including funds released from the digital television switchover help scheme;
  • giving the sectoral regulator, Ofcom, two new duties: first, to promote investment in infrastructure and content alongside its duties to promote competition; and second, to carry out a full assessment of the UK's communications infrastructure every two years; to ensure that the UK has a first class and resilient communications infrastructure;
  • creating a robust legal and regulatory framework to combat illegal file sharing and other forms of online copyright infringement and give Ofcom a specific new responsibility to significantly reduce this practice, including two specific obligations on Internet Service Providers: the notification of unlawful activity and, for alleged serial-infringers, collation of data to allow rights holders to obtain court orders to force the release of personal details, enabling legal action to be taken against them"

ISPs as enforcers

The proposals to make ISPs "enforcers" is to me problematic.

Before I started this blog there was some publicity about "Guilty till you're… nope, just guilty" Karoo, a small ISP with a monopoly in Hull.

It cut off its customers without any warning on simply getting notification from copyright holders of suspected illegal filesharing. And it refused to reconnect them till they promised never to do it again (even if they'd never done it in the first place!). Talk about "natural justice".

After some adverse publicity, including the intervention of MP Tom Watson, Karoo have now said they'll adopt a "three strikes" policy instead. But even that leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

The whole issue of using ISPs as copyright police to, essentially, enforce the commercial interests and prop up the profitability of powerful industries, just doesn't sit well with me.

What about the rights of ordinary individual citizens? And who bears the costs of this "robust legal and regulatory framework " and "obligations" on ISPs - shouldn't it be the music / film business rather than UK taxpayers and ISP customers?

Why is combating "illegal file sharing" so much more important and worthy of politicians' time and legislation than combating street crime, or stopping elderly people dying for want of enough heating in their homes?

Perhaps the chance to have dinner with the rich & famous and to hobnob with ageing rock stars could be a deciding factor. Got to get one's priorities right after all, building up one's connections with industry is vital - especially if one may be having to look for a job after 2010.

I really, really don't want the UK to move to "One law for the rich and powerful…" Although some may think we're already there.

Have your say

Everyone is free to comment on the legislative programme, by 21 September 2009. "Do you think the Draft Legislative Programme reflects the right priorities for the United Kingdom and, if not, what other issues do you think the Government should be addressing?"

Note also that the Consultation on legislation to address illicit peer-to-peer (p2p) file-sharing is technically still open, closing 15 Sep 2009.

©WH. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike England 2.0 Licence. Please attribute to WH, Tech and Law, and link to the original blog post page. Moral rights asserted.