The UK government’s controversial Digital Economy Bill was voted for by a majority of House Of Commons MPs Wednesday night – giving music labels, movie studios and other sections of the creative industries a landmark “graduated response” approach to unauthorised downloading of media content.
Under a code overseen by media regulator Ofcom, ISPs will, at copyright holders’ behest, notify subscribers by letter about their alleged transgression. If alleged infringers then persist, the ISP would sanction against them speed blocks, bandwidth shaping, account suspension or other limits. With no mention of ultimate “disconnection”, it stops short of France’s so-called “three-strikes” approach.
But, outside of the content industry, there is widespread disquiet at what many consider a “bad law”. Whilst MPs largely support protection of intellectual property, they are dismayed that they had just days to debate the bill before parliament is dissolved ahead of the May 6 UK election…
Heavily lobbied by digital liberties activists, some MPs admit they don’t understand the proposal and many suspect the measures – rather than reduce piracy – will instead punish downloaders’ parents or public WiFi operators, while abusers find workarounds.
The bill will now likely receive Royal Assent when parliament is dissolved on Monday, ahead of the election. But the government was forced to ditch several other parts of what was a wide-ranging package of media-and-communications reform, to win MPs’ support in the brief period before dissolution.