Uk – Digital Economy Act 2010: Fundamental Flaws and Recommendations Essay

Kings Digital Consultancy Service, King’s Digital Consultancy Services Kings College London, 26-29 Drury Lane, 2nd Floor, London. WC2B 5RL. (Example) 06/05/10 Digital Economy Act 2010 Fundamental Flaws and Recommendations Executive Summary A report covering three major flaws within the Digital Economy Act 2010 which include issues with public Wi-Fi, how it affects the general public and problems with current legal digital media. These issues will be looked into in detail and then recommendations will follow to suit in order to advise the panel on how to improve the bill from its current state.

Contents Executive Summary2 1. 0 Introduction4 2. 0 Problems4 2. 1 Public Wi-Fi4 2. 2 General Public5 2. 3 Legal Digital Media5 3. 0 Recommendations6 3. 1 RE: Public Wi-Fi6 3. 2 RE: General Public6 3. 3 RE: Legal Digital Media7 4. 0 Conclusion8 5. 0 References8 6. 0 Index9 6. 1 Internet Usage Rates9 1. 0 Introduction I am Rhys Regan from Kings Digital Consultancy Service writing this report in support of the reasons behind the implementation of the Digital Economy act. However, I believe it is fundamentally flawed and may cause problems in the not so distant future.

The body of this report will be focusing primarily on the online breech of copyright; which includes performers’ rights and details of penalties for infringement. For the purpose of this report I am going to be taking online copyright infringement as unlawful acquisition of digital media for personal or wide scale use; I will not be focusing on other aspects of infringement such as website content theft. 2. 0 Problems Looking at the digital economy bill it is immediately obvious that it has some problems at the core of the bill. I have identified three areas which I believe will be especially problematic.

These are the issues surrounding downloading and public Wi-Fi, implications for the general ‘uneducated’ public and problems with current legal digital media. 2. 1 Public Wi-Fi Over recent years in Britain internet usage has surged: Year| Internet Users| Population| % of Population| % increase since 2000| 2000| 15,400,000| 58,789,194| 26. 20%| -| 2005| 35,807,929| 29,889,407| 59. 80%| 33. 60%| 2007| 38,512,837| 60,363,602| 63. 80%| 37. 60%| 2009| 48,755,000| 61,113,205| 79. 80%| 53. 60%| Source: http://www. internetworldstats. com/eu/uk. htm[Index 6. ] With this the use of wireless networks has been increasing and consequentially Wi-Fi has become available in ever increasing places this is great for the general public but it is feared that introduction of the bill may seriously hinder this technological progress. The ‘legislation will hold owners of open Wi-Fi hotspots liable for any copyright infringement which takes place on their networks’ (Mick, 2010). It will require owners of the hotspots to monitor and log any access to the networks or hire an independent company to do so on their behalf.

This will lead too many smaller business’ disconnecting there Wi-Fi as the costs of running this could outweigh the benefits. Lilian Edwards, professor of internet law at Sheffield University states; “This is going to be a very unfortunate measure for small businesses, particularly in a recession, many of whom are using open free Wi-Fi very effectively as a way to get the punters in. ” Another issue is also surrounding public libraries and Universities, where it is unclear whether the organisations in question are ISP’s (Internet service providers) or subscribers.

Government bodies are unclear on what position these larger organisations hold and have left it up to them to decide for themselves. A government document titled ‘Online Infringement of Copyright: Libraries, Universities and Wi-Fi Providers’ states; “The position as regards universities is far more complex”. Lillian Edwards states in response to this document that “they don’t know themselves how universities fit into the Digital Economy Bill”. It seems almost ridiculous to put a piece of legislation into place where the outcomes of it are uncertain for certain organisations.

If larger organisations become ISP’s then they are responsible for the users of their network and will be required to record and store data on their user’s activity and pass this onto relevant bodies; this will incur huge costs. However, if they remain subscribers then they will receive any disciplinary measures from the illegal activity of users on their network. 2. 2 General Public The number of file sharers in the UK is estimated at 8. 3 million by Harris Interactive. This equates to 10 in 58 internet users based on an estimate of 48. 7 million (Internetworldstats. om) total internet users. A lot of the file sharers downloading copyright material will not own their own internet connection and will be using parents or another body’s connection to download. This will result in measures being taken against the holder rather than the person who committed the offence. As file sharing has become so popular it has become a “socially acceptable form of casual piracy” according to Eric Garland, chief executive of Big Champagne. In this situation people are going to continue to download if the consequences aren’t known by the majority.

Everyone knows that they shouldn’t be downloading copyright material but after years of downloading with no real repercussions a piece of government legislation to counter this may come into play without the public knowing and cause uproar when people start getting warning letters if they didn’t know the bill was in place. Another problem lies with unsecured home networks, where in Britain it is believed that ‘8% of home networks are not secure’ (YouGov Plc. ) However, this survey was taken online so is more likely to be responses from experienced internet users so in practice this figure may be higher.

With the introduction of the Digital Economy Act this will place blame on the owners of the connection if any illegal activity is undergone on their network even if the person accessing does not have permission. This is a problem as the owners who have the unsecured connections are going to be the least educated in regards to computers and most probably not engaging in any illegal internet activity at all. 2. 3 Legal Digital Media At present if consumers choose to purchase media online they run the risk of downloading a product which has been encrypted with digital rights management (DRM) technology.

If your product has DRM technology it will restrict access, copying or conversion to other formats by the consumer. This makes the media useless for passing between devices or any other related tasks. “Bill Gates says it “causes too much pain for legitimate buyers” while trying to distinguish between legal and illegal uses. He says no one has done it right, yet. There are “huge problems” with DRM” (Arrington, 2006). Another problem with legal media is the cost, as the media is so freely available illegally consumers will often opt to this.

Peter Bradwell from Demos says “Politicians and music companies need to recognise that the nature of music consumption has changed, and consumers are demanding lower prices and easier access. ” (Madison, 2009). The average cost to purchase a song online is $0. 99 (? 0. 64) based on an album of 12 tracks this comes to $11. 88 (? 7. 68) per album. This is ridiculous considering an album often does not cost more than this in the shops. Downloaded music retains a fairly high price and for this you do not even get the quality you would expect. Downloaded music is most commonly 128kbps where as CD’s are higher giving better listening quality.

Illegal music downloading is also much more convenient than doing it legally. If you wish to download off a legal program or site you are required to sign up filling in forms giving away personal information such as your address, name and email address. This can leave you open to spam email and junk post. You also need to give bank details for payments and many people are still very cautious over doing this due to fear of being hacked or scammed. 3. 0 Recommendations I have several recommendations which I will class into their relevant problem groups.

I have a more general recommendation which I will cover here. To really combat online piracy the governments should focus more on the websites/programs which support file sharing and place more responsibility on them. By focusing on small file sharers they are going to find it much harder to achieve the 70% reduction they are hoping to achieve. If they close or restrict content on websites which host links to illegal downloads I believe they have a much greater chance of achieving the target. They should contact the websites in question and give them some responsibility for what they are hosting.

For example making them screen a certain percentage of uploads before they are published and then having dedicated people searching for illegal content. For the programs the owners could issue warnings to anyone sharing illegal content on the p2p program which would lead to temporary and then for persistent offences a permanent ban. The p2p owners could then share IP information of the alleged illegal file sharers between themselves to prevent the illegal sharers simply switching to a different p2p network. 3. 1 RE: Public Wi-Fi I believe that the government needs to set out firm outlines on how organisations class themselves to start with.

It should not be up to the places in question to determine their status within the law this will just cause confusion in how the bill applies to them. They could do this by creating a complex yes/no answering system in which the results of the questions give the organisations in question a definite answer to what they should be classing themselves as. It would also be advantageous for both the organisations in question and Ofcom (in terms of fewer appeals) if the government was to create a protocol of internet security measures that if followed and implemented the owners of the connection are not responsible for copyright infringements.

This could include creating generic free software for organisations to help protect them. This software could include a website blocker which comes from a government database of websites relating to illegal file sharing. It could also involve variable options which could disable any file downloading at all and features on capping download sizes if they are permitted. 3. 2 RE: General Public I think before warnings are sent to the connection holders a letter of notification should be sent. This letter then should give the owner a set period of time (i. e. 10 days) to respond, letting authorities know if it was omeone else within the household and if they wanted to place blame onto them. As the person who has now accepted responsibility has no internet connection to take technical measures against they could be charged a fixed penalty. This should only be allowed to happen once per household to combat big internet pirate’s continually passing blame onto other members of their household to avoid any form of technical punishment. The passing of the blame from owner to member of the household will deter everyone who uses the connection as they will now know the repercussions.

To combat the beliefs that online piracy is acceptable I think the government should invest in an advertising campaign. I think the most effective way of getting this to the majority of file sharers is to advertise in the form of banners on popular websites, the government should conduct research into what websites file sharers commonly use and focus on these. In order to keep costs of advertising down the government could do deals with websites/programs which include or promote the sharing of copyrighted material.

Instead of closing down there website they could offer them a deal where instead of closing down their website they could remove the material which infringes copyright and install a banner advertising the new legislation on the page free of charge. If this was the case then there would be banners on most the sites file sharers would use, making everyone aware of the current legal situation behind downloading copyright material and hopefully deter enough for no one to experience technical restraints.

For connection holders who have no security on their networks and are victims of people using their connection to infringe copyright they should still receive a warning letter. However, they should then be able to respond explaining that they have not committed the act and that they do not know how it happened or it is because they have an unsecured network. The government or Ofcom should then send an explanatory letter on how to secure your network or even offer a service for an engineer to come and set up the security for a fee.

This will be beneficial to a lot of users who have little/no knowledge of computer security. Also to prevent this happening for future internet users it should become mandatory for every ISP/router provider to incorporate password protection to wireless networks as standard instead of being optional as it currently is. 3. 3 RE: Legal Digital Media Instead of encrypting digital media with DRM it should be free of any restrictive technologies, with the exception of rented items such as films or TV programs. If a consumer has paid for a product they should be able to do what they please with it.

It is extremely unfair that if you buy an album legally online you may only be able to listen to it on the device you purchased it on but if you had bought it in the shops you could copy it to multiple devices getting much greater usage out of the media. Online media retailers need to realise that the online selling of media provides dramatic cuts in costs in terms of CD’s, packaging, distribution etc. At the moment these cost savings are not reflected in the pricing of online media. Record companies need to accept that consumers are unwilling to purchase mass amounts of media at the price it is currently at.

In order to really eliminate illegal downloading consumers must be willing to buy all the media they wish at a price they feel is reasonable. This has to involve lower prices for the consumers, which will result in more sales for the media industry. The media will have a lower mark-up price but the increased sales volume will lead to overall profit increases. In regards to convenience; online retailers are never going to become more convenient than downloading illegally as payment methods and personal details are always going to be required.

However, retailers can make the process easier by using the simplest registration forms as possible making them intuitive and keeping the personal details required to a minimum. Multiple payment methods should also be accepted; this could include bank transfer, credit card payment, PayPal, cash etc. 4. 0 Conclusion In conclusion I believe that the Digital Economy Act 2010 is flawed at the core and should not have been passed in the House of Commons without even further amendments.

A bill which can have this impact on the public should not have been passed so hurriedly and the longer term effects should have been looked into and thought about more than they have. Public Wi-Fi will be affected by this, business’ will not want to take the risk by offering this service any more as the cost of protecting themselves from the repercussions of the bill are too great. The government should give a standardised set of security rules which if followed exempts the business from any illegal activity carried out by its public users. The main problem n how this will affect the general public is the way in which the internet connection owners are blamed even if they are not the ones committing the offence. This will happen both by authorised people within the household and by unauthorised people using the connection without permission. In order to stop this there needs to be a system where blame can be passed to another person resulting in a fine; but only once to prevent this bypass of blame being abused. If an unauthorised user commits an offence on the connection then the owner should be able to let this be known and given support on how to prevent this happening in the future.

Legal digital media is simply too restricted and priced to highly to meet modern day consumer’s needs. Any restrictive technologies need to be removed to allow freedom of use and serious consideration needs to be taken to lower prices to achieve the increases in sales volume desired. This cannot be done by amending the bill but the record labels responsible need to be made aware of consumers not willing to pay current prices. 5. 0 References * Arrington, Michael (14/12/06) “Bill Gates on the Future of DRM” [Online] [26/04/10] www. echcrunch. com * Cellan-Jones, Rory (27/11/09) “Facts about file-sharing” BBC NEWS [Online] [21/04/10] www. bbc. co. uk/blogs/technology * Edwards, Lillian. (26/02/10) “Open Wi-Fi ‘outlawed’ by Digital Economy Bill” [Online] [16/04/10] www. zdnet. co. uk * Garland, Eric (28/08/09) Chief executive of Big Champagne “File-sharers’ TV tastes revealed” BBC NEWS [Online] [21/04/10] http://news. bbc. co. uk * Madison, Marteen (02/11/09) “Study: UK file-sharers buy more music” [Online] [26/04/10] www. myce. com * Mick, Jason. 01/03/10) “British Piracy Bill May Kill Most Small Public Wi-Fi Connections” [Online] [16/04/10] http://thewere42. wordpress. com * YouGov Plc. (15/10/09) “ Cisco Wireless YouGov Survey Results” * “United Kingdom Internet Usage Stats and Market Report” [Online] [02/03/10] www. internetworldstats. com 6. 0 Index 6. 1 Internet Usage Rates Year| Internet Users| Population| % of Population| % increase since 2000| 2000| 15,400,000| 58,789,194| 26. 20%| -| 2005| 35,807,929| 29,889,407| 59. 80%| 33. 60%| 2007| 38,512,837| 60,363,602| 63. 80%| 37. 60%| 2009| 48,755,000| 61,113,205| 79. 80%| 53. 60%|

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