Britain’s “Three Strikes” Law

In August 2009, the British government proposed  “three strikes” law to combat piracy on the Internet.  It cuts off Internet access to households that are accused of copyright violation three times.  This proposed law caused a lot of commotion and controversy.  For a while there was even a petition circulating to stop this law from being passed.

The Digital Economy Bill was summarized a few days ago in the Queen’s speech, and it sounds even more restrictive and anti-copyright than ever.  The three strikes law is just part of the Digital Economy Bill.  It also includes age ratings for video games.

The introduction of the three strikes law is a two-step process. “Initially the government will aim to educate consumers and, those identified as downloading illegal content, will be sent letters.”  Then, households even suspected of copyright infringement via the Internet will be cut off completely after three violations.  This portion will be enforced in Spring 2011.

Copyright protection is important, but not at the cost of hounding so-called “pirates”.  This law is protecting and limiting the digital industry, not encouraging expansion, innovation, and creation!  Is protection at the expense of the freedom of the citizens really worth it?  And who really benefits here?  With regards to music, the three-strikes law is more for the protection and profit of the record industry, not the musicians.

According to Cory Doctorow, my favorite blogger and proponent of Creative Commons, the Digital Economy Bill includes:

“£50,000 fines if someone in your house is accused of filesharing. A duty on ISPs to spy on all their customers in case they find something that would help the record or film industry sue them (ISPs who refuse to cooperate can be fined £250,000).

But that’s just for starters. The real meat is in the story we broke yesterday: Peter Mandelson, the unelected Business Secretary, would have to power to make up as many new penalties and enforcement systems as he likes. And he says he’s planning to appoint private militias financed by rightsholder groups who will have the power to kick you off the internet, spy on your use of the network, demand the removal of files or the blocking of websites, and Mandelson will have the power to invent any penalty, including jail time, for any transgression he deems you are guilty of. And of course, Mandelson’s successor in the next government would also have this power.

What isn’t in there? Anything about stimulating the actual digital economy. Nothing about ensuring that broadband is cheap, fast and neutral. Nothing about getting Britain’s poorest connected to the net. Nothing about ensuring that copyright rules get out of the way of entrepreneurship and the freedom to create new things. Nothing to ensure that schoolkids get the best tools in the world to create with, and can freely use the publicly funded media — BBC, Channel 4, BFI, Arts Council grantees — to make new media and so grow up to turn Britain into a powerhouse of tech-savvy creators.”

 

BBC News: Government Lays Out Digital Plans

What does this law do?  It stifles creativity and forces people to live in fear of copyright violations.  In regards to the evolving record industry (and the digital economy as a whole), they can’t just STOP copyright infringement with this strict law.  They need to change their business model and take the industry as a whole in a new direction that involves embracing creativity and liberal copyright laws.  Copyright laws shouldn’t be so open to adjustment.  Peter Mandelson should not have the power to spy on citizens and make up punishments.  The Digital Economy Bill sounds a bit too much like 1984.  It’s scary, really.

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