Who is this?

Technology Editor of Times of London until July 2010. Now swimming in the freelance shark pool, with abiding interest in games, gadgets and what it all means. If you're looking for product reviews, head elsewhere. Unless it's a really nice product. This is more of an attempt to sift out what matters from what doesn't. With a bit of gossip thrown in for good measure. I'm also learning to use Blogger as I go along, so please bear with me.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Digital Economy Act challenged at last

Yippee! The Digital Economy Act is back in the news!

This crappy piece of legislation was rushed through in the UK towards the end of the last parliament.

In the hullabaloo surrounding the election, few newspapers bothered covering it properly, despite the fact that it will have a direct effect on every internet user in t he country.

At the time, I commissioned a legal expert to write about it for Times Online (sorry, it's now behind a paywall)

Here's an extract though:-
This law should never have been passed. Regardless of your view on whether copyright infringing websites should be blocked or infringing users cut off from the internet, this was no way to pass such a controversial and sweeping piece of legislation….

…This is a law which will introduce powers that could see households or coffee shops disconnected from the web on accusations of file-sharing and internet service providers forced to block access to websites that are deemed likely to infringe copyright. Nobody knows how these powers will be used because the detail is unwritten.

A ring-around of the UK's leading ISPs revealed that all of them bar one were planning to comply. Only TalkTalk was adamant that it would not reveal the identity of suspected file-sharers to the authorities.

Today, BT has joined TalkTalk in mounting a legal challenge to the law, according to the BBC.

And about time, too.

File-sharing of copyrighted is bad and it is illegal, and it undermines the very businesses we really on most for our entertainment pleasure.

However, there are grey areas which the existing law just painted over with a big bucket of whitewash. We need to sort them out for any law to have real legitimacy. Study after study has shown that in Britain the best way to stop illegal downloading is to appeal to our sense of fair play. Passing a law just makes us want to test it. We're bloody-minded like that.

Also, if content owners such as TV networks and film studios really want to avoid going the way of the music industry, they should consider embracing this technology, not trying to legislate for it.

Real fans of a TV show, for example, would pay a premium for live global simulcast of its premiere over the internet, while the rest of us are happy to wait for terrestrial transmission in our own country.

At present, the delay between US and UK transmission (or the reverse, in the case of Doctor Who) plays right into pirates' hands. Making piracy futile or not worth the time expended versus paying a small amount for a legitimate feed is one way forward.

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