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Thread: Digital economy bill becomes law

  1. #1

    Digital economy bill becomes law

    Digital economy bill becomes law (ed. File Sharing Site may be shut down)

    (United Kingdom)

    By Ian Dunt economy bill becomes law

    The controversial digital economy bill won its third and final reading tonight, by 189 votes to 47.

    MPs started debating for the remaining stages of the bill just before 21:00 BST. Toward 23:00 BST the government easily passed its amendments with a majority of 157. The final vote came at 23:15.

    The legislation allows for websites hosting the filesharing of pirated material to be shut down.

    The government has promised further consultation on the matter after the election. There have also been a number of concessions, with persistent copyright offenders only suffering action on the basis of clear evidence.

    Civil libertarians, privacy advocates, and many internet users are up in arms at the bill, which they see as an infringement of online freedom betraying a fundamental lack of understanding of how the internet works.

    "The social and cultural impact is not being teased out," said Tom Watson, former parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office.

    "The whole thrust of this bill is to reduce illegal infringement. That's a slightly naive way of doing it when what we should be having is a carrot and stick approach."
    But proponents say the measure will save jobs, by protecting Britain's creative industries from the piracy which is hitting revenue streams across the sector.

    MPs from all parties expressed frustration that such a controversial bill was given so little parliamentary time because of the election campaign.
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  2. #2

    Re: Digital economy bill becomes law

    Somewhat reminds me of an old situation in the US, which involved child pornography. In the US, possession of pornographic images of children is illegal, so if a hosting company found such files were being shared on their systems, they would immediately close the offending account and delete the files and backups, because anything short of that would cause the hosting company criminal liability.

    The problem in that situation is that when law enforcement is tipped off about the files, they would often find the hosting company had already destroyed the files, and without that evidence, prosecution of the offenders would not be possible. As a result, a new law had to be passed that treats the hosting company as an "innocent intermediary", provided that they cooperate fully with law enforcement in the investigation. The end result is that law enforcement has the chance to collect evidence, and the hosting company doesn't risk being held liable.

    I have a feeling that a similar situation to this would result from the Digital Economy bill. When you make a hosting company liable for the content they host, the host will destroy that data before a proper investigation can be completed. In addition, law enforcement loses the cooperation of the hosting companies, as they try to avoid being prosecuted. In the new US law, as long as the host notifies law enforcement about the content immediately, and follows the instructions of the investigating agency for logging and/or removal of the content, they are immune from prosecution. Without similar protections in the UK, hosts are likely to destroy the files before (or more likely, instead of) alerting the authorities.
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  3. #3

    Re: Digital economy bill becomes law

    I think this is mainly about P2P, (like bit torrent), type of systems.

    These do not store files, but allow direct access to files on other peoples computers.

    This is one way such legal copyright issues are bypassed.
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  4. #4

    Re: Digital economy bill becomes law

    Here's a bit more about:-
    The digital economy bill and you By Ian Dunt

    Last night, MPs voted through the digital economy bill. There were only a few MPs in the Commons, but on the internet thousands of people's tempers were at boiling point. But what does the bill mean to the average internet user or even, let's whisper it, file-sharer?

    Well, not as much as you might think, given the hyperbole whipped up in all corners of the internet.

    There are matters of principle at stake and many internet users were dismayed to see MPs settle so quickly and firmly on the side of copyright holders rather than users. But in terms of practical effects on their day-to-day activity, the issues are limited.

    Ofcom will now be tasked with setting a standard for the level of evidence required to begin an action against a copyright infringer. In this case, the copyright infringer is basically someone downloading Pirates of the Caribbean from a file-sharing site, like BitTorrent or Pirate Bay.

    The evidence itself will not point to the individual, but to their location. Copyright holders, such as record or film companies, will hire private detecting agencies to look on torrent sites, detect where material is coming from and then send a list of IP addresses to the relevant internet service provider (ISP). The ISP will keep a record of the number of incidents and once it hits a certain level (yet to be decided) it will send a letter. A level above that will trigger another letter. And then, on the third strike, the internet connection will be suspended.

    We don't know how long for, yet. The suggestion is that it would be something like a week, but if record companies decide that's not working they'll presumably ask for more.

    The new system will put a commercial pressure on torrent services to provide software which helps customers evade detection. In Sweden, the use of encryption and anonymisation technology has shot up since a similar regulation was put in place. Japan experienced the same story in similar circumstances.

    Internet users can purchase ISP proxies or encryption technologies for about 5 a month, which basically make it look as if the user is coming from another country. There are plenty of anonymous peer-to-peer technologies which are free to use and easily found on the internet. Many internet users were upset to see several MPs speak last night on a subject which they seemed less than familiar with, but that factor is also on their side: once again, the law is trying to catch up with technology, and failing.

    That doesn't remove the political opposition to the bill. For such a controversial and important piece of law, many MPs and members of the public were horrified to see it forced through so quickly. "This is an utter disgrace," said Jim Killock, of the Open Rights Group. "This is an attack on everyone's right to communicate, work and gain an education. Politicians have shown themselves to be incompetent and completely out of touch with an entire generation's values."

    The bill got through because of Tory support, a fact Peter Mandelson avoided this morning when he attacked the party for watering it down. "The digital economy legislation has survived but the Tories have made changes that will make the task of building our digital economy in this country somewhat harder. It just shows they do not get it about business, about industry and what we need to do in this country to invest in infrastructure, new technology strengths if we're going to make them pay our way in the global economy in coming decades. The blow they have tried to strike against the digital economy legislation shows they just do not get it on what we need to do to build up the industries of the future."

    Whichever way you look at it, last night did not paint a reassuring picture of democracy. MPs were hurried into the Commons by the whips to vote on a bill in which they had not actually sat to listen to the debate, which anyway took place in double-quick time so the law could be secured by the time of the election. Many internet users won't be happy about that. But when it comes to avoiding the consequences of the bill, the path ahead may be easier than they expected.
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