British MPs recently voted in tough new laws relating to digital file sharing, despite widespread public opposition and signs that few legislators actually understood what they were voting about.
The Digital Economy Bill, which outlines a new copyright enforcement regime, was passed by 189 votes to 47, with only a few hours of debate and most MPs only showing up for the actual vote. With a general election looming, the emphasis was on clearing the decks of legislation. Despite protests outside parliament and thousands of letters from constituents, MPs pushed through the bill with one eye on the clock.
Penalties for illegal file sharing could include bandwidth throttling (slowing down the user’s internet connection) and suspending the user’s account. Regulator Ofcom still has to work out the specifics.
The government has refused to provide liability exemptions for entities that provide open internet access as part of their business or as a public service. This has led many to predict the death of open wi-fi in the UK and an end to web access offered by small businesses, pubs and internet cafes.
“It is such a shame the government has chosen to regulate what has become such an important part of both society and business with so little consideration,” wrote tech blogger Rosalie Marshall.