The Digital Economy Act

This controversial Act picked up a fair amount of political, media and social interest not to mention condemnation by many people that included MP’s, Lords, the ISP Industry and many thousands of broadband customers.

The Act covers a wide range of subjects but we are particularly concerned about the aspect regarding online copyright infringement and peer-to-peer file sharing.

The Government have, for some time, been under intense pressure from rights holders in the creative industry to act on users of broadband services “alleged” to be file sharing media such as games, TV shows, films and music which they are unauthorised to share. The allegations tend to come from rights holders who argue that their copyright and intellectual property has been obtained without permission to do so from the appropriate rights holder, typically through peer- to-peer file sharing.

But what if you don’t know that content on your broadband service has been downloaded and that you needed permission from the owner of that content to use it? What if you didn’t realise someone had connected to your service without your knowledge or permission? Well this is one of the key concerns we have for you because it is technically very easy for an unscrupulous person to access your Internet connection if it’s unsecured or even moderately secured. How would you prove it wasn’t you who downloaded that film or copyrighted content?

Responsibility for employees and customers

Another consideration is employees on a company network. It may not be those from the outside hacking in, but instead those on the inside using a connection to download illegal material.

As a landlord would be responsible for any fines if someone was to use his/her Wi-Fi connection illegally while in the pub or cafe, an employer paying for a connection would also be liable if one of
his/her employees or hotspot paying customers used it illegally too.

Businesses should now be looking more seriously at resources available to address security and we encourage every business to do that.

So long internet connection

The point is that the Act allows for more than just a slap on the wrist for anybody caught committing copyright infringement.

First off will come the letters, letting you know you – or an employee or hacker – has been caught in the act and warning you not to do it again. After three of these letters, you could be hit with a
massive fine or even have your internet connection cut off.

We don’t need to tell you how badly your business would be affected by having no internet running into the office and we guess with the current economic climate as it is, a fine wouldn’t be too welcome either.

Website blocking

Something else that may affect businesses is the revised clause 18 – now clause 8 – which will allow the blocking of websites if they hold copyrighted material illegally.

Now you may think it’s no problem if they block the likes of Pirate Bay, but there are concerns from large internet companies that the act could go as far as blocking search engines.

Even Google has come out against the clause, saying last month in a statement: “We absolutely believe in the importance of copyright, but blocking through injunction creates a high risk that legal content gets mistakenly blocked, or that people abuse the system.”

We may not expect the likes of to get blocked but with the increased use of online services to perform business critical applications, as well as the usual day to day usage of sites for communication and research, this could really affect businesses in the UK.

How will the Act be implemented and managed?

The telecoms regulator Ofcom has been given the power to draw up a Code of Practice outlining how the Act will be implemented.

Originally the Code was estimated to take six months, with inputs from the rights holders and the ISP industry however we were recently made aware and now know that this process had already started with the first draft of the Code due to be issued before the end of June.

With great internet comes a great responsibility…

The Digital Economy Act may help ensure much better internet connections across the UK and lay the foundations for superfast broadband as we go further into the 21st Century.

However, as these internet connections become more imperative to business operations, the technology is there to abuse them and now the law is also there to cut them off.

Businesses need to be aware of the new laws and enjoy the benefits, but also be aware of and prepared for the risks that could lie ahead.
If you‘d like to know more about the Digital Economy Act, give us a ring on 01239 712345 or email