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FAST Pleased the UK Digital Economy Act will not Face Repeal

Posted: 25th May, 2010 By: MarkJ
uk online software piracyThe Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has welcomed reports confirming that the controversial Digital Economy Act (DEA), which seeks to tackle unlawful copyright file sharing (p2p) by customers of UK broadband ISPs, will not be repealed. FAST claims that the UK faces software piracy rates of 27%, which allegedly costs the country £1,096 million every year.

The new Minister for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, was reported last week as saying that the Digital Economy Act is here to stay (here). Hunt’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ed Vaizey, has been charged with overseeing the DEA's implementation.

John Lovelock, Chief Executive of FAST commented:

"This is great news for the software industry, long struggling with internet piracy, together with other intellectual property rights holders. Our hope is that the graduated response provisions of this Act will be proportionate and drive traffic towards legitimate downloads. At this time of economic pressure this is great news for the country too, since more legitimate sales will mean more tax revenue and more workers in employment - everyone wins."

The Act aims to tackle unlawful copyright file sharing (P2P) by, among other things, imposing technical measures upon internet providers (user disconnections, speed restrictions etc.) and issuing warning notices to customers when such activity is detected. An earlier measure to block websites has been shelved, at least for now.

Many ISPs, people and consumer groups fear that the DEA's wording is too ambiguous and could lead to the closure of some shared networks / public Wi-Fi services (i.e. the owner gets targeted, not the offender) and innocent customers being unfairly disconnected from their broadband ISPs based on "suspected" copyright infringement.

Lovelock continued:

"The UK now has an online culture of ‘free’, even when not. This harms the companies working to produce generally expensive and high quality software works, the creation of which takes much time to research and develop. For users there is a risk that malware, including viruses, may be downloaded rather than the desired product. The provisions of the Act must be allowed to have a chance to work for benefits to be seen."

However a recent study by the University of Amsterdam (here) found that buying and unlawful file sharing go hand in hand. Music sharers ended up being just as likely to buy music as other people and spend more money on merchandise and go to concerts significantly more frequently. A similar trend was seen with films and game sales.

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat opposition to the Act appears to have evaporated as no mention of their promised repeal was stated in last week's final coalition government agreement with the Conservatives. Ofcom is expected to present its instructional draft Code of Practice (CoP) on the matter any day now.

The former Secretary of State, Peter Mandelson, informed the c&binet conference in November last year that if the amount of illegal downloading had not dropped by 70% come April 2011 then measures to cut-off file sharers would be imposed from July 2011 onwards. This would require Ofcom to draft an extra code; the initial code will primarily cover warning letters.
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