Open wireless access: 'Outlawed' by British Government

Open wireless access: 'Outlawed' by British Government

Summary: New legislation could outlaw open wireless access on university campuses in a bid to reduce the risk of copyright infrigement,


In an obscene move, the British Government's upcoming legislation, the Digital Economy Bill, a key part of law which will reduce abuse of Internet access such as illegal peer-to-peer networking and copyright infringement, may force public wireless access points out of use.

The proposed law, according to CrunchGear, would essentially impose "impossibly high levels of copyright protection by libraries and small businesses" which would make wireless access points useless by providing open and unrestricted access to the web.

Universities and libraries would not be exempt from providing open wireless access says, meaning even educational institutions could face the same penalties for copyright infringement to those of those committing the offence.

But universities in my experience attempt to pass the buck.

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, received an official warning from the university they attend from their IT department, warning them that their IT account will be monitored and restricted as a result of a notice by a major movie production company in the United States - alleging that this student had used the university network to illegally download a movie over the peer-to-peer network.

The university responded by acting in this way to prevent it from facing any legal action and essentially passing the blame - almost rightfully - to the student. Though all UK university wireless networks are required to log on by your university email address and password, some argue that these wireless networks are not open and are restricted to only account holding students and staff.

The government released a factsheet which stated that universities may be forced to act as an ISP to its students, even though they share the same Internet backbone to every other educational institute in the UK, JANET. But it also included a set of recommendations which to the average student nowadays would be seen as absurd, such as:

  • No downloads allowed on library computers.
  • Allowing IT services to accurately detect time, date and place of infringement and allow the blocking of users and staff to "monitor traffic and downloads".
  • Libraries will have a filter system which can block certain sites where necessary.
  • Implementation of, and need for acceptance of a conditions of use policy which enforces users to accept before use.

Also according to this paper, "a fairly typical university currently receives between one complaint a week to one a day from copyright owners", stating that copyright infringement in universities is an endemic issue.

The bill is confusing, ever developing and hugely controversial, bringing in a lot of criticism from peer and pressure groups. While universities may not be exempt from this bill making these areas a "safe haven" for copyright infringers, unrestricted access to resources and academic freedom is absolutely paramount.

These restrictions could have a major negative knock-on effect to students and will criminalise the first offender and create an atmosphere of fear, almost.

Topics: Mobility, Browser, Government, Government US, Networking, Telcos, Wi-Fi

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  • On to more serious matters..

    >sigh< Governments never really learn. They grasp at straws in a useless effort to show the constituents they're "doing something" - even if it only adds a colossal pain in various body parts to implement and maintain. And even then, there's NO guarantee that someone isn't going to download something that's prohibited.

    Ok.. So wireless is out. Any hard core downloader is likely to be jacking into a wired connection - they tend to be faster anyhow. So is it going to curb piracy? Eh.. Maybe a little.. But not entirely.
  • No no no no no

    Outlaw public WiFi? Buddy, if all you're trying to do is cut down on piracy, you might as well outlaw The Internet all together!
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Isn't this amusing?

    We've got one half of the governments of the world trying
    to provide free and open Internet access, and the other
    half trying to shut it down.
  • This is very typical

    of the British Labour party. But is but one of many laws they've made to infantize the the British public. At the rate they're going, they'll soon outlaw free speech.

    Hopefully they will lose the next election to the Conservative government who (I hope) will repeal some of this nonsensical Labour legislation.

    At this day and age, I would not like to be living in Britain.
    Yam Digger
  • As always, EVERYONE suffers for the thieves.

    Oh well, very few seem to want to stop the thieves so the public deserves what it gets. Shrug...
    • Except the thieves themselves...

      ... as is usually the case with this sort of political theatre.
  • RE: Open wireless access: 'Outlawed' by British Government

    Those who believe in an afterlife can picture George Orwell looking down on us, snickering and thinking "told ya."
  • RE: Open wireless access: 'Outlawed' by British Government

    Well, since most bank robbers and burglars use the public streets both to facilitate access to the premises to be robbed and as a means of escape, all public streets must be shut down IMMEDIATELY!
    • makes sense to the government.

      Well if you are in London, you just need to pay a fee and then you are free to use the street for what ever purpose you deem appropriate. If the streets were "free", then you could be sure that they would considering closing them down.
  • RE: Open wireless access: 'Outlawed' by British Government

    This is just ridiculous.
  • RE: Open wireless access: 'Outlawed' by British Government

    Substitute the name "Mandelson" for the UK government, as this charmless person (already previously disgraced) obviously wants to be a one-man version with no reference to due process and parliament at all. He also seems to want to give himself limitless powers on a presumption of guilty until proven innocent. Whatever happened to the courts system on which the law of the land is based - allegedly? Mandelson will go down in history - for all the wrong reasons. I hesitate to accuse him outright of being in someone's pocket but why all the sudden interest in pirating and copyright so soon after having an association with a music industry honcho? OK, why not say it? In my opinion, the whole thing stinks.
    • Lord "Darth" Mandleson

      Eurgh. He's such as slimy git. One of my friends works with him. He's a good friend but we disagree on his profession... then again, as a journalist, he disagree's with mine ;)
  • Lord Darth

    guilty until proven innocent...I never thought I'd see the day that the French legal system prevailed in Britain.
    • I live closer to France than I do to London

      It's a scary thought.
  • RE: Open wireless access: 'Outlawed' by British Government

    If the author of the article had carefully read the Digital Britain document he would have noticed that what he claims are "recommendations which to the average student nowadays would be seen as absurd" actually describe the access restrictions *currently* applied in *public* libraries in the UK. They are nothing to do with Internet access in universities.

    Those (and more) are the conditions applied in all the public libraries I have used in the last few years. Note that in most libraries you are free to download anything to storage you plug into a USB port.

    The stuff to be really concerned about are the isues around open access WiFi that is offered by many small businesses and hotels. As the proposals stand they stand to have their services restricted if a user infringes copyright.
    Jeremy Barker
  • S.O.P.

    Standard Operating Procedure.

    Punishment of the Innocent,
    Promotion of the Guilty,
    Bonuses for the Luddite Executives.
  • total non-starter

    Typical political machination: lots of action with no movement. Reality is what it is. Anything created by humans can be hacked by humans. I don't think anyone in power has really gotten it through their heads yet that piracy (as it is currently defined) isn't going away. Governments can no more wipe out piracy, than they can wipe out poverty, or affect where seagulls take a dump on the coast.
  • goes along with their surveillance cameras everywhere

    V for Vendetta anyone?