The UK Digital Economy Bill was unveiled on Friday and with it comes the promise of Internet disconnection if a user is found guilty of downloading lots of copyrighted material. Despite this not being a criminal offence, file-sharers would find their rights to have access to the Internet curtailed and civil proceedings heading their way.
Stephen Timms, The minister for Digital Britain, said:
“When a content rights holder identifies that somebody is doing things they shouldn’t be doing, their ISP will send them a letter telling them they shouldn’t be doing it. If that process proves to be insufficient, then we have the ability to put in place these technical measures. Among the technical measures, temporary account suspension is a possible temporary measure.”
The UK Pirate Party’s leader, Andrew Robinson, said (according to the Telegraph): “This is a major attack on free speech and human rights. All the benefits of filesharing have been ignored for the benefit of the record labels. Not only is it free advertising for the artist, but it is good for the cultural wealth of the country. No one is excluded from culture if it’s freely available.”
And this to me is the point, it is free culture, no-one should be denied that.
All this will do is force file-sharers to find other means of getting hold of content and drive them even further out of daylight under ground.
There will also be bandwidth capping and a daily download limit. Cracking.
I can’t help but feel that this won’t make it through parliament before the election however, and may indeed be swept under the carpet by the Tories should they come to power.
What the government want to do is to empower people and give them a public service, making broadband Internet a utility in the same vein as electricity or water. However, if I use too much electricity or water, do I get a letter telling me to stop and threatening disconnection? No.
What Labour could propose is a state run broadband provider with these terms, offering competitive rates against other Internet providers, and then see how many people sign up.