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Digital Economy Bill: Nine things you can’t do any more

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Rich Trenholm
April 2010

The Digital Economy Bill has a number of clauses that, if taken to their logical extremes, could see some pretty horrible outcomes. It’s completed its whistle-stop tour of the legislative process, sprinting from Commons to Lords with barely a pause for breath before getting the nod from Her Maj. MPs decided to get the bill into law first and worry about the details later.

Until Ofcom hammers out the mechanics of the processes outlined in the bill, it’s impossible to say how we’ll be affected. We take a look at some of the worst-case scenarios.

Watch copyrighted content

No shizzle, Sherlock. Accessing copyrighted movies and music is illegal already, but with just a minimal amount of know-how it’s easier than falling off a slippery log in the rainy season. The bill aims to make it more difficult to access copyrighted content, by blocking Web sites built around sharing such material. From the other side, the bill creates sanctions that can be applied to you, the user, should you be caught with your fingers in the copyright cookie jar.

Download from us

Download.com is part of the big happy CNET family. Among the available software are peer-to-peer file-sharing tools. The bill specifically states that Web sites such as Download.com can be blocked if they’re providing tools that infringe copyright.

Use Napster

In the same clause, the bill targets sites that have infringed copyright in the past. That theoretically includes sites such as Napster, which have cleaned up their act since their early days under the Jolly Roger of copyright piracy. This may overturn the recently set legal precedent in which a high court judge ruled against a blanket ban of Usenet-indexing Web site Newzbin.

Use WikiLeaks

But most worrying is that the same clause also specifically allows for blocking sites deemed ‘likely to’ infringe copyright. We don’t yet know how the government will divine whether a site is ‘likely to’ do anything, unless Ofcom is going to start employing soothsayers. There’s also a clause relating to national security, which could see legal restrictions on material ‘they’ don’t want us to see. This may even extend to gagging sites that currently do a bang-up job of making a mockery of ‘super-injunctions’.

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This article was posted: Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 4:55 am

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