Digital Britain minister concedes file-sharer 'disconnection'

Digital Britain minister concedes file-sharer 'disconnection'

Summary: Digital Britain minister Stephen Timms confirmed on Monday that those accused of unlawfully file-sharing copyrighted material could be 'disconnected' from the internet.Referring to the 'technical measures' in the Digital Economy Bill that could affect those accused of sharing copyrighted material, Timms said: "There will be an appeal available.

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TOPICS: Telcos
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Digital Britain minister Stephen Timms confirmed on Monday that those accused of unlawfully file-sharing copyrighted material could be 'disconnected' from the internet.

Referring to the 'technical measures' in the Digital Economy Bill that could affect those accused of sharing copyrighted material, Timms said: "There will be an appeal available. There will be no disconnection until the appeal is heard." He was speaking at a presentation on the Labour government's technology strategy, given by prime minister Gordon Brown.

The difference between the words 'disconnection' and 'suspension' is largely semantic, as one cannot suspend a connection without disconnecting it, but the government has previously shied away from using the d-word. It is still not clear for how long a period people might have their accounts suspended.

Brown's speech was largely concerned with presaging a new era of online interaction between citizenry and government. At one point, the prime minister referred to those who do not have internet access as being "trapped in a second tier of citizenship, denied what I increasingly think of as a fundamental freedom in the modern world: to be part of the internet and technology revolution".

ZDNet UK spoke to Timms after Brown's speech, asking him how a disconnected individual would be able to fully discharge their rights as a citizen. He stressed that technical measures — which could also include bandwidth throttling and site filtering — would be a "last resort".

Asked the same question again, Timms said it was "important that people use their access responsibly and lawfully".

Asked the same question again, the minister said there were "many ways" in which a citizen would be able to exercise their rights after being disconnected. Asked to name one such way, the minister failed to do so.

ZDNet UK then asked the minister how much time would be afforded to debating the Digital Economy Bill in the House of Commons, before it is passed in the 'wash-up' period just before the dissolution of parliament, ahead of the election. He would not say.

Asked whether the bill would spend any time at all in committee stage — a period that usually lasts weeks and involves MPs examining the bill in some detail — the minister again did not give an answer.

Topic: Telcos

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • Yeeeeeassssss [as Jeremy Paxman would say]. Hope you rolled your eyes and made arrogantly incredulous looks at him.

    The government has brilliantly painted itself into a corner on this one.

    Save oodles of cash by moving as many public services online as possible - elevating a broadband connection from a 'must have' (but obviously not a fundamental human right - we'll leave than to the Fins) - and then threaten to cut off anyone in society who illegally downloads thereby rendering them "non-citizens".

    Bit like taking away prisoners right to vote - except prisoners can still file their taxes online (if they choose to pay them) when they get out the clink.

    Wonder what the conservatives will do? Well they will be up for the saving cash bit - as Will Self pointed out on question time recently any new government is just going to be managing a series of massive budget cuts and won't have any real room to do anything - but won't be hampered by any of the social inclusion nonsense like recruiting Martha Lane Foxy to ensure everyone's grandma gets online.
    Andrew Donoghue
  • sadly, this is pretty much the response we can expect from an incumbent political party.
    Whilst I have no expectation to actually win the upcoming election, it's responses like this that have forced me to take a radical stand against the government & stand for election against Stephen Timms in the East Ham seat.
    The Pirate Party UK is opposed to the Digital Economy bill, especially where it would disconnect users from the internet, WITHOUT proof of wrongdoing, but refuse to acknowledge how the affected can plead their case...
    I don't intend to hijack zdnet.co.uk with political rants, but I do think that most people here have a good head on their shoulders, and can judge the PPUK on its own merits without being preached at. Hopefully a few of you are in the East Ham community and can give support to a Pirate :)
    @...