Sunday, March 7, 2010

Digital Economy Bill Changes of UK Threat to File Sharing on Internet

Internet freedom campaigners have reacted with dismay to the proposed changes to the Bill. Supporters of Open Rights Group, warned many websites could be forced offline simply by the prospect of expensive legal proceedings. Individuals and small businesses would be open to massive 'copyright attacks' that could shut them down, just by the threat of action. It is pertinent to mention that the Digital Economy Bill of UK was announced in the Queen's speech in November 2009, with a major section dedicated to how best to deal with illegal file sharing. The Bill, currently in the report stage at the House of Lords before its third reading in the Commons, proposes a solution of several steps, which begins with a warning letter sent to those illegally downloading from their internet service provider and could end with the internet connection being temporarily suspended.

Under amendments to the Digital Economy Bill the High Court could be given the power to issue an injunction against a website accused of hosting "substantial" amounts of copyright-infringing material. It means popular websites, such as YouTube, which often unwittingly carry content uploaded without the permission of copyright holders, could be "blocked" or forced offline if the amendment is upheld.

The Internet Service Providers Association, which represents ISPs, said it was "outraged" by the plans, while TalkTalk said the plans would force ISPs to restrict access to specific sites.

The proposed law do not restrict access to a few sites but only in the most serious cases, for instance those involving child pornography or issues of national security. But more to the point, making the restriction of websites a more widespread policy would be dangerous given its major impact on internet users' human rights, freedom of expression and privacy.

However the changes would be welcomed by content creators. This is going to send a powerful message to the creative industries that the value what they do, is well respected and it is not censoring the internet, but a genuine approach to copyright protection on internet. The companies like Google, which do major file sharing are planning to face the challenges.

Dr.Tabrez Ahmad,
Associate Professor of Law, KIIT Law School
KIIT University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India, 751024.
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