The government has announced a Digital Economy Bill in the Queen’s speech, as it steps up its war against illegal file sharers.
The bill, which will support the Digital Britain report, proposes measures against file sharers. There was no mention of broadband tax which is not expected to be outlined until the Finance Bill next year.
According to the government, the bill will ensure a communications infrastructure that is fit for the digital age, supports future economic growth, delivers competitive communications and enhances public service broadcasting.
Business secretary Peter Mandelson said: “The Digital Economy Bill will give creative and digital industries the framework to develop competitively and make the UK a global creative leader.”
“A stronger communications infrastructure will drive growth and bring new technologies and services for households and businesses across the country,” Peter Mandelson added. “We will also act to protect our valuable creative communities from online copyright infringement to ensure that existing and emerging talent is rewarded.”
John Higgins, director general at Intellect, said the publication of Digital Economy Bill may prove to be an important moment in determining the direction of the UK’s technology industry.
“Enabling universal access to broadband and promoting next generation access will not only enable individuals to make the best use of the internet for a range of services, but will also be a vital platform for companies to innovate and to build the businesses of the future,” added John Higgins.
File sharers face being cut off from the internet under new rules. The government will attempt to educate people about the problems caused by file sharing. But file sharers will be sent letters and could be disconnected if they persist.
Peter Vicary-Smith CEO at Which? supports the crackdown on illegal filesharing. But he said he is concerned that the proposals could see the wrong people being targeted while the real culprits slip through the net.
“We must ensure that illegal filesharers are identified and dealt with appropriately and that those who have been wrongly accused have access to a fair, free and quick independent adjudication system and that any penalties are proportionate,” Peter Vicary-Smith added.
Main elements of the bill
Online infringement of copyright – tackling widespread copyright infringement via a two-stage process. First, by making legal action more effective and educating consumers about copyright on-line; second, through reserve powers, if needed, to introduce technical measures such as disconnection.
Digital infrastructure and content – giving Ofcom new duties to promote investment in infrastructure and public service media content; and to carry out an assessment of the UK’s communications infrastructure every two years.
Mobile and wireless broadband – enabling investment in next-generation technologies through spectrum modernisation.