How does the Digital Economy Act affect your business?

As a social media consultant and an occasional digital rights activist, I paid a lot of attention to the Digital Economy Bill as it was frogmarched through Parliament. Like many, I was disgusted by the ill-informed nature of the debate about key problems with the bill and frustrated at how the politicians seemed to have been entirely captured by the music industry lobbyists, particularly the BPI.

The Bill is now an Act and whilst there are many aspects which are appalling, such as the threats to disconnect accused copyright infringers without any recourse to a proper hearing, I am very concerned about the chilling effect that this legislation is going to have in industry. Not just the internet industry, but all industries that use the internet. If you have a marketing campaign that solicits contributions from your community, if your business model includes any kind of aggregation, if you provide a wifi connection free of charge to visitors or guests, you could be affected by the Act.

Indeed, I’ve already noticed the chilling effect on my own thoughts about social media. What would I advise a client to do to ensure they are as safe as they can be of the unintended consequences of this bill? Is that even possible? What role will encryption now play in day-to-day interactions with the internet? Should I be advising clients against using third party tools that could potentially get taken down because they might possibly be used by others for infringing acts?

I’d very much like to hear your thoughts about how you think the Digital Economy Act might affect your business. Please do leave a comment.

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I think we'll have to see what the courts make of it. After all, as with most badly-designed legislation, the intent is pure (if perhaps misguided...). If it is used only to punish obviously bad people who make a mockery of copyright law in a disrespectful wholesale matter, then everyone's a winner, and people who try and use the law indiscriminately to shut off Internet access of supposed infringers are successfully counter-sued into oblivion, and ISPs who reject requests to disconnect their customers without really watertight cases are not successfully sued by copyright holders issuing those requests, then it will become cemented in case law that there are acceptable limits to the use of this legislation. However, if a rightsholder with a well-paid legal team manages to force through a few successful high-profile disconnections, backed up by a strong PR campaign to quell public dissent as the ravings of lunatic communist hippies, then we're done for.
Digital Economy Pill!