The Digital Economy Bill aims to tackle a growing number of digital communications infrastructure issues. The bill’s overall goal is to speed up broadband access in the UK, protect children from adult content, penalise nuisance calls, and address Internet copyright infringement. The Digital Economy Bill would appear to help consumers and small businesses in the UK. However, many reputable organisations consider two parts of the Digital Economy Bill anti-business.
New Internet Censorship Regulator
Web sites accessible inside the United Kingdom will be required to submit users data to a new age verification regulator before allowing them to access pornographic content. The way the provision is written content rated 18 or R18 by the VSC or classified as pornography by the age verification regulator is subject to age verification. Yes, you heard that right. The new age verification regulator has the authority to censor content they deem “reasonable to assume” would be given an 18 or R18 rating by the VSC without requiring the VSC to classify the content.
Creating an Internet regulator and granting them the power to make hypothetical classifications on content will undoubtedly put them at odds with classifications made by the VSC in some instances. This provision will lead to inconsistent ratings of online content and will negatively impact hosting providers, advertisers, video hosting websites, content creators and payment processors in the United Kingdom.
The Digital Economy Bill takes censorship to new heights in the UK while providing minimal additional protection from adult content for the children it aims to protect. Requiring proof to access adult content stigmatises UK citizens by making their consumption of adult content public. Many UK residents will view adult content on foreign websites that do not have to comply with British law. The Internet censorship regulator will take more money out of small business owners in the UK.
New Penalties for Copyright Infringement
The Digital Economy Bill expands the scope of copyright infringement protection and penalties. Under the new law, an offence is committed if the copyright infringers actions “expose the owner of the copyright to a risk of loss”, this change will make an infringement that results in the loss of a single sale a criminal act. Currently, non-commercial copyright infringement is only a criminal offence if the distribution is “to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright.”
The Bill increases online infringement penalties fivefold. Previous sentences carried a maximum of two years in prison. Now an infringer can spend up to ten years behind bars. It is worth noting that under UK law stealing a car carries a maximum of two years. The moral of the story here is use a VPN for Kodi, BitTorrent and Popcorn Time, or perhaps Parliament thinks UK consumers have too many cars.
The Digital Economy Bill Shows its Stripes
Over 99% of registered UK businesses are small businesses. Their concerns are mainly focused on copyright infringement on shared computers, like the ones found in hotels, cafes, and home offices. Copyright infringement from a home office or guest WiFi hotspot would put the small business owner at risk by making them responsible for the copyright infringement. Clearly, this legislation unfairly puts small business owners in the crosshairs of copyright trolls.
Traditionally criminal legislation charges the person responsible for the offence they commit. Let us go back to the stolen car analogy. Would it be right for the courts to hold you responsible for murder if someone steals your car and then uses it to kill someone? Of course not. Why should copyright legislation be any different?
Because the Digital Economy Bill provides no defence for SME’s providing the shared computer or connection many small business owners will be forced to stop providing these types of services. Which would eventually stop consumers that cannot afford broadband access from having any access to the Internet. What do you think of the Bill? Let us know in the comments below.