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The long awaiting legislation proposals to combat internet piracy were always going to be controversial but the announcement this week of the new rules underpinning the Digital Economy Act have set forums and social networks alight with opposition.

The DEA has been controversial from the start, approved in 2010 and intended to crack down on internet pirates, it places high burdens on Internet service providers (ISPs) to police their customers, issuing warnings to those seen infringing and placing repeat offenders on a Copyright Infringement List (CIL).

Media regulator Ofcom is handling the implementation of the act and this week published documents outlining how ISPs and customers will be affected by the legislation. Under the rules:

  • – A copyright owner notices that their content is being pirated online. They then have 10 days to gather evidence and submit a report to an ISP
  • – The ISP then has a further 10 days to identify the offending subscriber and send them a warning, if appropriate.
  • – Receive three warnings within a 12 month period (the first tow via email or standard mail, the third via tracked mail) and the customer downloading the pirated data will be placed on the CIL.
  • – Copyright owners will then be able to take action by obtaining a court order to obtain personal details from the ISP and then pursuing the copyright infringer.

Even the largest of ISPs opposed the bill originally and civil liberties groups have been campaigning hard against the proposals too, but the biggest issue may have only just been realised. Under the new rules, customers accused of infringement will have to pay £20 to appeal apparently disregarding the British tradition of innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, just as the world appears to have recognised the need to offer free WiFi to customers in public spaces the act now looks like it will treat open WiFi network operators such as hotels, libraries, and coffee shops not just as ISPs but effectively the ‘infringing’ customer as they will be unable to identify the exact miscreant. This could feasibly see the end of open WiFi networks as businesses retreat from any risk while many also fear that too many innocent people will end up in court because the law seems too stacked in the favour of the ever powerful big media and copyright owning companies.

What do you think about the new rules and how the Digital Economy Act will be applied?

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