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Digital Economy Act

The Digital Economy Act

April 13, 2010

Amidst opposition within Parliament, considerable protest from thousands, and condemnation from some of the most respected companies in the world, the Digital Economy Bill was made law last week, becoming the Digital Economy Act.

Concerns surrounding the potential impact of the new legislation are numerous and varied, but the most controversial aspect of the Act is the slew of amendments to communications and copyright law, intended to better protect the rights of artists in the digital age. It is far too early to tell how successful the new law will be in this respect, but many commentators are hailing it as a step backwards that will hinder the competitiveness of the UK, and lead to the harassment of innocent members of the public.

Below are some of the predicted consequences:

  • Innocent members of the public will lose out
    Commentators have suggested that making the owner of an internet connection liable for the actions of people using it will have far reaching implications. It could spell the end for wi-fi in coffee shops, and leave those less tech-savvy home owners facing expensive lawsuits.
  • Increase the cost of being connected
    Some argue that the obligations imposed upon internet service providers (ISPs) will increase costs substantially, with these inevitably being passed on to consumers.
  • Drive serious pirates underground
    Once of the greatest concerns is that, while it may severely disadvantage innocent members of the public, the new law will drive serious pirates underground, barely impacting their operations. By utilising encryption, and clever schemes to achieve anonymity, those who have the drive to ignore copyright law on a large scale will not be phased by the new Act, instead they will use technology to hide their activity more effectively.

While the music and film industry herald the new law as an acknowledgement of their rights and a need for development in the law in response to technological advancements, it is not yet clear whether the Act will have a positive impact. Many are concerned by the alleged lack of scrutiny to which the Act was subjected, and advocate reform of the business models employed by those industries rather than the introduction of further legislation.