Today 20th November 2009 sees the content of the Digital Economy Bill announced, with the various sections available and assorted comments by members of the Government on the BIS website (warning some parts of the site appear slow at the time of writing this (10:45am)). We have split the bill out into its constitute parts to make it easier for people to digest, and avoid confusion.
One thing to ensure people are aware of is that while some press coverage has suggested the 50p broadband levy/tax is not happening, and while it is not part of the Digital Economy Bill, it is expected to be detailed in the Finance Bill at a later date.
Copyright infringement and how to make copyright laws fit for a digital age was a corner stone of the Digital Britain report, and by far has been the issue generating the most vocal response from the public and industry. Today clears up some of the confusion, but of course until the Bill has entered the statute books it is open for debate and change.
Compared to what has been covered in the press previously the proposals in the bill seem somewhat more targeted at those who engage in copyright infringement the most, rather than resulting in people who have downloaded one music track getting letters and their broadband cut off. How well the letter warning system will work depends greatly on how good the rights holders are at identifying people; the general public will not take kindly to being accused of sharing content illegally if they really have not. Therefore, the rights holders need to take great care in not abusing the letter system. Additionally, one hopes that the bill on its passage through the house will cover the issue of privacy, i.e. that the tally of bad marks held by the service provider is kept securely and is not used for marketing purposes (e.g. customers with too many bad marks receive a poorer service or are encouraged to move to another provider to reduce a providers costs in handling the letters). In light of the mobile phone company staff selling customer records, the issue of security and privacy for this data should be high on the agenda.
Of course the hope with this legislation is that people will reduce the amount of material they download illegally (i.e. free) and spend more money on buying the content legally. The digital economy is apparently worth some £16bn and copyright infringement is estimated to cost the music industry £180m and the film/TV industry £150m in lost revenue. In the current economic environment it seems unlikely that people will spend more on music and films rather, they will simply decide to live with less digital content or seek free legal means to obtain/view it.