What is the Digital Economy Bill?
Last night MP’s held a crucial third reading of the Digital Economy Bill outlining the UK’s internet laws and was passed by MPs in the House of Commons, holding on to most of its clauses. It was the support of the Conservative Party (who had previously supported the protesters) that allowed the Digital Economy Bill to go through.
The Bill was passed by a majority of 189 votes to 47, some clauses are being revised such as the Finance Bill to charge a 50-pence-per-month levy on landlines to fund a national high-speed broadband network, and they scrapped clause 43 of the bill, which meant anyone could use a photographers work without permission.
The Digital Economy Bill has been controversial as the digital community especial over Clause 18 which previously proposed to disable the internet connections of illegal file sharers. This clause has been removed but in its place, a similar clause that means the Secretary of State for business has the power to block websites that they feel infringes copyright or has a connection with these activities. This means social media sites such as YouTube, and Facebook should be under scrutiny!
In reality, I doubt that giants such as Facebook and YouTube will be blocked but users who share using these sites may be banned. It will have a huge effect on the blogosphere and sites like Wikileaks. Although in some ways the policies will benefit artists and creatives, it will also curb innocent sharing and freedom of speech.
What’s contained in the Digital Economy Bill?
For anyone who hasn’t heard about the Digital Economy Bill, here are a few of the main policies:
- the functions of the Ofcom
- the online infringement of copyright, including copyright and performers’ rights and about penalties for infringement
- internet domain registries
- the functions of the Channel Four Television Corporation
- the regulation of television and radio services
- the regulation of the use of the electromagnetic spectrum
- the Video Recordings Act 1984
- public lending right in relation to electronic publications
- the bill proposes adding a clause to the Communications Act 2003 with the effect that internet service providers could be forced to disclose details of their customers who repeatedly infringe copyright, on production of sufficient evidence, to copyright groups or face a fine of £250,000 for non-compliance.
- ISPs to be required to block access to sites that allow “substantial” infringement..
Many people are concerned that the Digital Economy Bill has been passed through too quickly, but the most controversial aspect is the lack of attendance by politicians to the readings, even after over 20,000 letters and emails contending it were sent to the local MP’s, most of which got copy and paste replies.
Many sites were set up, including find out if your MP attended the second reading, and so far over 4,000 Twitter users tweeted that they refused to acknowledge the Digital Economy Bill. Since the expenses scandal, public opinion of politicians has been at an all-time low and this bill being rushed through will not be helping general opinion just before the election.
Unfortunately, although news spread amongst the digital community, everyday internet users will have less of an idea of how this will affect them until they get a fine or blocked from using Facebook for sharing copyrighted content.