Anti-piracy laws passed: 'Fears of wave of censorship' raised

Anti-piracy laws passed: 'Fears of wave of censorship' raised

Summary: The controversial anti-piracy legislation has been passed. The UK will now have a governmentally controlled' web censorship system. Bad news

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Post updated - 7th April 2010, 00:42 BST: Please see below at the end of this post for full updates. (It's bad news, by the way).

It's politics day here on the iGeneration blog. The general election has been set as May 6th and today is the last seating of Parliament before the Queen dissolves it on Monday morning. Campaigning has begun, and the Prime Minister has set off on his travels to canvas for votes with the other respective political parties on their own campaign trail.

Though today is no ordinary day. Today is the last day of full governmental control - and with that, legislation that has been sitting on the Parliamentary desks for weeks on end has been dusted off, handed to the clerks and is now, basically, being rushed through the Commons by the end of the working day.

The Digital Economy Bill is the most controversial piece of legislation on the cards today and is set to be debated later on this evening. The bill, covered quite extensively on this blog, will give the state and government to tell ISP's to disable and suspend broadband and Internet accounts of users through a three-strike system of copyright infringement; in a nutshell, admittedly.

There were a number of upsides to this bill, allowing the government to create a £6 tax (around $10) a year to every household in the UK with a landline phone - including student addresses - to help fund a nationwide rollout of at least 2MB broadband. It would have also allowed Ofcom, the UK's independent regulatory body for communications, to have greater power to ensure the consumer got the best deal and weren't being screwed by their technology provider.

But because it is the last day of Parliament before the general election, the thick black marker pen has stricken through whole chunks of the bill to make it not only easier for the majority of backing MP's to support and vote for the bill - to ensure it becomes actual legislation - while marginalising MP's who don't want the bill to become law.

The Guardian with the help from @jaggeree and @sarahkatenorman have posted a web application which allows you to check by postcode whether your MP showed up to the second (amended) reading of the Digital Economy Bill. Suffice to say, when you read on, you will discover very few attended at all.

The main bulk of the bill - the anti-pirate and file sharing methods - will remain as part of this act. It is fair to say that the British public are rather annoyed at this, let alone the student generation of which this legislation will hit the most.

On a far more visual level, as @scottisafool posted on TwitPic last night, not many did.

Now, I'd love to give my full and frank, uncensored and probably biased opinion but that would involve a lot of swearing and the smashing of plates and other crockery around the house. The problem here is simple.

The Digital Economy Bill is vehemently opposed, not only by the opposing political parties but the wider state and citizens in general. Twitter and Facebook has gone crazy in the last few weeks in an effort to mount pressure on the government to oppose or at least reconsider or further the debate into these measures.

But our representatives do not listen; instead, the focus is on the money saved by the music industry and the wider picture to enable the political elements to saddle up to the corporations for their own mutual gain.

Then again, think of the wider public influence. A million people demonstrated in London in one day alone to oppose the war in Iraq. Nearly half a million people demonstrated in London in one day to oppose the ban on fox hunting. We still invaded Iraq, and fox hunting is still banned.

The general election has not come soon enough for many. The present government isn't listening to its own citizens, let alone the massive student population.

- - -

Post updated - 7th April 2010, 00:42 BST:

The bill has been passed with 189 saying yes, 47 saying no. The bill will very likely become law through Royal Ascent tomorrow, if not at least before the dissolution of Parliament on 12th April. Based on the live feed from The Guardian which has documented the full event, we have as follows:

  • Clause 43 was removed. This would have allowed the use of works of which no copyright owner could be found. This had upsides and downsides, and photo sharing websites could have been affected.
  • Clause 18 was removed and has been replaced by a new clause. This means the government, in particular the Business Secretary to the Cabinet, can force ISP's into blocking content or access to websites which host illegally copyrighted material. But as ZDNet UK points out, sites such as Wikileaks can now be blocked to UK citizens. A court must approve these on an individual, case by case basis. This could mean that a new wave of censorship could roll across the UK. It also means that torrent sites could be blocked by the government through forcing ISP's to restrict access to them, including restricting access to other downloadable content. If say, a Rapidshare file is considered copyright and reported as so, the site linking to the download could face being blocked off to the British public.
  • Clause 4 through to 17 resolves that if users are caught downloading copyright infringed material, the copyright owners must inform the ISP with evidence within the month. ISP's must respond with details confirming the fact if need be. More regulation is needed to confirm exactly the further steps needed by the ISP, such as applying technical measures to the broadband account of the accused. Also, Ofcom must produce reports every three and twelve months on the extent and breadth of copyright infringement and consult on whether these debated actions are having any effect.
  • Clause 41 resolves that games that "include violence to humans or animals, encouragement of criminality" along with the usual drug use, encouragement alcohol and tobacco use,  and swearing will fall under the Video Recordings Act 1984. This may mean that games such as Grand Theft Auto may be banned or severely restricted to ensure that kids don't get their hands on them.
  • Clause 44 resolves that the maximum penalty for criminally making or distributing copyright infringed material is £50,000 (around $76,000), though Clause 45 means that libraries which lend material of copyrighted material such as e-books and audiobooks are free from prosecution or legality.

Also for additional information:

  • This process was part of the "wash up", the part between the announcement of the end of Parliament and the actual end of Parliament, to rush through the last bits of legislation where possible.
  • Chris Marsden, senior law lecturer at the University of Essex calls this bill an "an absolute insult to Parliament, to Internet users, and to democracy."
  • This page shows an interesting comparison. 1 bill, 643 MP's (this is debated, funnily enough), 20,000 letters written, and only 40 bothered to turn up to vo'te. This is suspected due to the party whips who have told many to stay away or fear the consequences in attempt to get the bill through. It worked.
  • ZDNet UK also has coverage which might be useful.
  • Similarly, this post gives a brief outline of every section of the bill, including the bits that have been taken out.
  • As The Guardian points out in its updated, summation of the live blog, Google could in theory be blocked. There is nothing stopping the government and the courts now, that is if this becomes law in the next couple of days (it's passed the hard part, frankly, so we're talking about "when" rather than "if").
  • Yet another Guardian article published (you can never have too much clarification) outlines specific areas of what the bill means and what will change. It's a useful read; I'd recommend it.

In a nutshell, this will most likely become law by Monday morning. It means that any site, domain, website or server in the world could be blocked off by a non-jury court order as a result of the government's actions, to all members of the UK population, if the aforementioned is deemed to contain or link to copyrighted material. This means Wikileaks, this means CBS, or this means any random personal blog on Blogspot, or it could also mean Google could be blocked as and when the government wishes.

Welcome to the United Kingdom, where freedom of speech is no longer accepted.

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Topics: Broadband, Browser, Government, Government US, Networking, Telcos

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31 comments
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  • Just because students might be broke doesn't put them above the law!

    "the anti-pirate and file sharing methods - will remain as part of this act. It is fair to say that the British public are rather annoyed at this, let alone the student generation of which this legislation will hit the most."

    "Waaaaahh! I'm a student and the government doesn't give me a big enough loan to spend on being hip and trendy by buying the latest fad Hollywood trainwreck of an 'artist', so I'll just steal it instead! GIMME GIMME GIMME!"

    Honestly, don't they teach law in Uni's anymore?
    Joe_Raby
    • That's rather reactionary

      I think the true issue is due process of law. Where do you go to contest a "copyright violation?"

      If this law follows most European law, you will be guilty by fiat unless you can prove your innocence. I think people are justifiably concerned about this kind of law in the European Justice system.

      You need to keep in mind Europe still has, essentially, a medieval justice system. The idea that you, rather than the state, must prove the case is a throwback to the dark ages.

      So I ask again. How does one appeal the "decision" you are a "violator?" Let me answer. You can't. Arbitrary, unappealable decisions will spew forth and not a damn thing anyone can do about it.
      Takalok
      • Do you speak for the European Union or individual European states?

        If you don't, and are just inciting false statements, then I won't discuss it with you.

        Otherwise, state where in the laws it says that.

        What I'm arguing is that Zack, along with other students, will advocate stealing on the basis of not being able to afford something, and takes the approach that education costs are too high to spend on entertainment, like it's as vital as buying groceries or paying rent.

        All I'm saying is to get a job and quit justifying breaking the law because you're lazy. Commercial entertainment is not essential for life. Get it legally or suffer the consequences.
        Joe_Raby
        • Totally disagree

          As a student, my issue with the bill has nothing to do with me wanting to infringe on anyone else's copyrights. I watch prefer films at the cinema and am not a big re-watcher + have
          pretty much no interest in music.

          My issue with this bill is that it makes me liable for all these things regardless of where or not i did them. 124A (1) b states that i the subscriber (who own the internet
          connection) am responsible for the actions of everyone else who uses my internet connection.
          Since most students like myself live in shared accommodation, this means one person in every house hold is now liable for the actions of every other person.

          So thanks to this bill i "benefit" from the possibility of massive fines and have my internet shut off (more a less guaranteeing i fail my degree) simply because someone in my house
          hold decided to torrent something and my name happens to listed on the broadband contract. After all, thanks to this bill theres no need to prove who downloaded/torrented the
          offending file, i just magically become responsible for it.

          So yea, i'm not all that happy about the bill.

          The fact it will kill off open wifi (see my previous explanation) in the country, enables the government to arbitrarily censor the internet (10/11) and actually seems to disadvantage
          most of the UK's own small/independent content creators, are just bonus's the bill offers. Which weirdly enough, i'm also not massively pleased about.
          Mr Bag
          • This Law is complete rubbish

            From a IT Tech point of view there are already
            3 very easy ways around this;
            1 IP spoofing, which will soon become a default
            feature in most file sharing apps now that
            there is a need for it
            2 any WiFi network can now be hacked, some in
            just a few minutes.
            3 traffic encryption, this can also easily
            become default and will cause a major headache
            for the ISP as they will not be able to see
            what the traffic is and determine if it's
            illegal or not

            this will at best slow down file sharing for a
            few months, maybe a year but people will
            eventually find a way round this. And simply
            blaming the bill payer for the infringement is
            stupid since the bill payer can very easily
            have nothing to do with the incident what so
            ever.

            I suppose regulating the media companies into
            fairer prices (e.g. mobile network providers)
            was just too difficult for this pathetic
            government.
            Reginald937
          • screw the piracy angle

            I would be more worried how they plan on going about finding who is or isn't. The means for prosecuting on evidence with current anti-piracy in the States has been a joke. They dont even have to prove it is still on the machine, just the fact that someone from your IP address downloaded it. This is horrible considering the days of wifi. That is how it works though, They get crap passed and jump right in and it ends being a joke of justice. Just like copy protection hurts only the users that pay for the software or any media.

            I cant say I am too surprised that people want to make this about right and wrong or labeling it stealing when copyrights are way different in a lot of ways.

            The thing is when I had my car stolen I no longer had a car, someone just didn't make a copy of it. If I created the car and people copied it without taking the parts I used to make it I wouldn't lose the key pieces of what I put in. Obviously I would like to get paid for the idea and sure, someone did get away with copying my design but no theft of goods actually happened. People that pirate will always pirate and a hefty fine to some 13 year old downloading Kanye isn't going to change that. It is the piracy for profit that is the evil of the industry and the raping of the retail pricing that makes it too damn easy to feel compelled to do so. In the day of the internet and fast downloads you still pay full price for something you can't even hold in your hand. If there was a happy medium I think you would have more purchasing and less energy by normal people to retieve it through bargain ways.

            People are willing to pay for a movie or media if it is priced accordingly. Even normal people pirates will buy a movie for 5 bucks off some guy selling them out of his backpack.

            Everytime something like this passes you get to see who's running things behind the curtain. The Patriot Act showed that it wasn't about terrorism or catching criminals online but a tool for the movie and record industry. Sad that some big wigs at a record company can be the downfall of humanity by slowly taking the liberties of people just by accidental collateral damage.
            turrenti@...
  • Debt !

    Students will start with a debt when they get out of school. At least in America they do. Nice start of the rest of your life. It's almost as if slavery never left. You work to try and get your life back on the road. Welcome to Capitalism.
    TxM2xTx
    • Blame your school system for cost of education for middle-class jobs then

      I don't hear the doctors and lawyers that live in upscale Manhattan condos, or run their own private practises and retire to their summer house in the Hamptons complaining about paying back their education loans.
      Joe_Raby
      • Are you NUTS!?

        They whine about that all the time, because it can take them until they are retired to pay back all that money, even if they DON'T 'live the high life'!

        What we really need is for certain education degrees to be free in this country. Education degrees, health care degrees, social worker degrees, law degrees, etc.

        All funded by the federal government. It's simply time to realize that a college degree, while it SHOULDN'T be necessary since most jobs 'learn while doing the job'.... is necessary.
        Lerianis10
        • Free education? Are you serious?

          There is NO such thing as "free" ANYTHING, especially if it's provided to you by the government! The government cannot give you what they have not already taken from somebody else.

          When will you loons recognize the government doesn't HAVE any money; they just confiscate it from productive citizens to distribute to those they think will keep voting them in office. This is one of the reasons why socialism doesn't work because, as Margaret Thatcher once said, "...eventually you run out of other people's money." And the government's response? PRINT MORE! Hooray! /sarc

          You guys should research the term "monetizing the debt." You might be surprised what you find. We (in the U.S.) don't have any more money to spend. That's why the masses keep begging Washington to STOP SPENDING MONEY WE DON'T HAVE!!!
          SAStarling
        • Self Interest

          I would not go as far as advocating that some higher education should be free; but rather that higher education should be affordable to those willing to learn. Health care degrees (doctors, specialists and surgeons) are very expensive; this is followed by a need to earn enough from a practice to pay the huge student loans; this leads to higher costs for health care coverage.

          In this case, to help make health care more affordable it makes sense to make the cost of education low enough so that more can become a part of health care service and earn a decent living earlier.

          There are people in small towns who have pooled their money to pay for someone's medical education; the student pays those people back by having a medical practice that serves the small town.

          A free education does not always lead to a productive life. An affordable degree should be a challenge to accomplish, those who succeed will appreciate the degree more than someone who gets the same degree for free.
          sboverie
  • Upside???

    You call socialist funding of nationwide broadband upside? I call it stupid, and dangerous creep of government, labeling every amenity a "basic necessity", resulting in bigger government, higher taxation, and less personal responsibility to go get what you want (not need). If you *choose* to live in the hinterlands, where it is necessarily more expensive to run services out to you, that was *your* decision. Next up: we subsidize your gasoline for your commute??? Please.
    Techboy_z
  • RE: Anti-piracy laws to be decided today: It's not looking good

    The Limey's are leading the way towards George Orwell's prediction... it's only a matter of time now.

    They have been disarmed...
    They are under constant observation...
    Their voice is ignored by the labor party...
    They are on the verge of a mandatory knife registration...
    The government has more control over their lives everyday...
    The government controls the media completely...

    So it's not a surprise that the UK is now starting to exert it's influence and control over the internet. Once they have total control then the ministry of history will start re-writing things...

    The sad fact is the United States is about 30 years or less behind them. Yeah, George Orwell was pretty much on target with his prophetic book, 1984... which was published in 1949! ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • Limey's = racist

      Please watch your tone.
      zwhittaker
      • Rubbish, sir!

        I'm a limey and proud of it! Errr... make that less proud than I was before this godawful piece of legislation was rammed down our throats...
        Dan the Digital Dog
      • Racist?

        Are you kidding me?

        It was a term derived from the Royal Navy's use of lime juice.

        While the modern use may imply referring to people from the UK, there is no "race" involved - unless of course you are making the preposterous assertion that Caucasians from the UK are a "race".
        croberts
      • Sensitive much?

        nt
        callandor87
      • Racist?

        What race would it be referring to? The English race? Newsflash - The English are not a race. The British race? Nope, not a race either..

        Maybe, just maybe, you are over sensitive and probably should not be on the internet without parental supervision if you are going to be so easily upset..
        Calson
    • Allegedly...

      "[i]Once they have total control then the ministry of history will start re-writing things...

      The sad fact is the United States is about 30 years or less behind them. Yeah, George Orwell was pretty much on target with his prophetic book, 1984... which was published in 1949![/i]"

      [b]Allegedly[/b], the Texas Board of Education(?) has removed Thomas Jefferson from the new History books they are going to order for their school districts.

      Also some Central American Human Rights campaigners were removed (because some bimbo had never heard of them).

      lehnerus2000
      lehnerus2000
  • America's Fault

    This is all because America is pushing "digital rights" all round the world to prop up its only remaining industry - entertainment.

    It will be funny when the American entertainment industry collapses like every other one of their industries, and countries around the world will be left draconian copyright laws...
    croberts