Guest Blog – Five Myths About The Digital Economy Bill

This week the UK government passed the Digital Economy Bill, which aims – among other things – to stamp out online music piracy.

The Bill has sparked outrage amongst internet users, who fear they’ll have their online access blocked if caught filesharing. 20,000 people wrote to their MPs to protest against the proposed measures.

Even within the government, the Bill was deeply unpopular: one former minister said it would be a “catastrophic disaster” if it became law.

And now it has. But is it really as evil and draconian as people are making out? We thought we’d give The Man the chance to answer back. Here, a music industry spokesman argues that the DEB has simply been misunderstood.

Adam Liversage writes:

Myth 1: The Digital Economy Bill will criminalise filesharers

Reality: No it won’t. Neither temporary account suspension – nor any other proposed measure in the Bill – would result in internet users receiving a criminal record, or being subject to criminal prosecution.

Myth 2: Innocent people will be disconnected from the internet as a result of wi-fi hacking

Reality: It is difficult to see how this could ever happen. Firstly, the notifications would contain straightforward instructions on how to uprate the security on home wi-fi networks. Once secured adequately, the risk of unauthorised access becomes negligible.

Secondly, the measures themselves contain safeguards, such as the Appeals Process, which would act as a net for exceptional cases. The Bill does not propose to fully disconnect a user’s internet connection, but temporarily suspend the connection of the most persistent illegal filesharers for a limited period of time.

Myth 3: It will infringe the privacy of internet users

Reality: The music industry does not access personal data at any stage in this process. The responsibility of communicating with consumers and maintaining a database of repeat infringers will lie solely with Internet Service Providers.

Myth 4: The costs could be £24 per ISP subscriber per year, and would be added on to their bills

Reality: BPI and the Creative Coalition Campaign separately commissioned detailed technical reports which showed that the costs of establishing the appropriate infrastructure and sending notifications. The first year estimates range from a total of £8.5m to £13.5m in total. This equates to 49p a year per ISP subscriber.

There is also no requirement on ISPs to pass on these costs to all their customers. ISPs could easily absorb the costs in their vast profits, or alternatively pass them directly to infringers.

Myth 5: People would be denied their human right to the internet

Reality: There is no ‘human right’ to access the internet enshrined in law. Furthermore, the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights accepts that no individual has a fundamental right to access the internet per se.

Adam Liversage is Director Of Communications at the BPI, a body that represents the interests of the music industry