Web developer Becky Rose on the Digital Economy Bill

By Katy Bairstow

Becky Rose is a web developer who builds e-commerce solutions for businesses of all sizes and all industries. She has been a vocal campaigner against the Digital Economy Bill and agreed to discuss her concerns about the legislation in more detail.

When did you first become aware of the Digital Economy Bill?
It was a while back now, I signed the online No.10 petition for the bill after seeing it mentioned on Twitter and then read up on various blogs on the subject to better inform myself.

What are your key concerns about the bill?
The government has not considered at all any malicious use of the legislation regarding aggressive tactics and misuse of the bill. Imagine how destructive a virus that sends and receives P2P data could be, hundreds of thousands of people could loose internet access from a botnet attack. I can easily imagine the kind of person who indulges in such activities finding that kind of devastation too tempting to resist.

A lot has been made about issues surrounding hacking wifi connections and downloading P2P data on other peoples networks, and how innocent people could be affected – it’s so easy to do, the last time I hacked my own wireless a couple of years ago it took me on average 15 minutes to get past my own security.

However the ramifications of this run much deeper. Imagine how powerful a tool the Digital Economy Bill is when you have malicious intent, consider for a moment that I already have daily stock, pricing and turnover figures for my closest e-commerce rivals [collected and calculated legally]. They do the same to the company I work for too as I can see it in the server logs. With the Digital Economy Bill we can escalate the corporate espionage to new levels and remove each other from the e-commerce landscape altogether, and it’s so easy, with very few resources required, and with so much money at stake who will blink first?

I can foresee the majority of e-commerce related companies being forced to move their technical infrastructure outside of the UK within the next few years simply to protect against being shut down by an arbitrary decision from a computer in an ISP – without a court case, and with mission critical systems on the line, it’s simply too important and too imperative to risk operating in the UK with this legislation in effect.

The addendum to clause 8 is very harrowing indeed as it gives the government the power to shut down web sites they suspect might one day possibly potentially commit copyright infringement. Any company using a blog to communicate with it’s customer base is potentially at risk from a pre-emptive shut down with as little as an allegation from a business rival being all the ammunition necessary to start the fires burning.

Would you define your work as creative in addition to being tech-based?
My job isn’t “creative” in terms of the way this legislation is written, I’m not producing music or films in that sense, but I have worked on a significant number of creative projects in the past, from computer games to web TV shows, and I likely will continue to do so. As an author of a great deal of creative content and as a consumer I see no reason for any anti-piracy measures at all.

The government claims this legislation is essential to stop Peer-to-Peer file-sharing and safeguard jobs in the creative industries. Do you think it will be effective?
There has been a long history of anti-piracy measures, I remember the lenselock on early ZX Spectrum computer games that prevented anyone with an astigmatism in an eye from being able to get into their game, easily lost code wheels and code books, various hardware protection methods that didn’t work such as bootblock protection on the Amiga computer which contributed excessive wear to floppy disk drives, rootkits which accessed ring 0 of the OS – a major security breach, serial numbers – often countered by a simple generator and with huge consequences for online gamers who find their serial banned simply because some pirate happened to generate their code, and so on and so on, the list is endless…

All of these things have one thing in common, the only people they didn’t effect were the pirates who simply removed the protection.

Anti-piracy measures only effect genuine consumers. They have no effect on piracy what-so-ever. They never have had, and they never will.

The music industry is adamant they are loosing money to piracy, they aren’t. The research done during and since the Napster case shows categorically that genuine music sales have gone up amongst people who share music online. Most people are decent and honest and adhere to their own moral code so even when pirating some of their music, they’ll buy more of it thanks to being exposed to things they would not otherwise have heard.

What the music industry has done is fail to adapt to the internet business model. They are still trying to resist the internet and I think it’s about time they accepted that the internet is inevitable. They should have had their own version of iTunes no later than the late 90’s but instead they where too busy fighting Napster and trying to stop the internet revolution from happening, and they still haven’t adapted their business models to the 21st century even now and instead are choosing to upturn the British constitution and declare us guilty until proven innocent instead of bringing their business practices up to date in line with almost every other industry.

Katy Bairstow has worked in the IT industry for over a decade for companies like EDS. She currently works as a freelance web designer and developer and blogs infrequently at whatkatydid.org.You can follow her on Twitter @katybairstow.