UK Pirate Party’s Guide to the Digital Economy Act

A lot has been written about the UK's controversial Digital Economy Act, which passed in April in the last days of Gordon Brown's government. What there has been a lack of, however, is facts and guides about the Act, an omission which the UK Pirate Party has attempted to solve.

    PPUK LogoWhen the Digital Economy Bill was going through stages, it was rushed through the House of Commons – the elected half of the UK’s Parliament – in a period known as washup, with the only debate session being poorly attended and full of completely inaccurate pro-Bill statements.

    It eventually passed with most MP’s not voting, despite a 3-line whip on the topic for the then-ruling Labour Party MPs.

    The Bill passed to become the Digital Economy Act with a narrower margin than many expected given the voting instructions from the party – some had stood up for their conscience and for the facts, risking sanctions from their party.

    The Act has been broken down by the Pirate Party into five sections:

    1. Introduction and the Initial Obligations Code
    2. Technical measures to limit Internet access
    3. Subscriber appeals
    4. Web-blocking
    5. Other Provisions and Summary

    This sort of technical guide would have been even better if made available before the vote. Passed around the Commons bar, it could have helped people who were clearly uncertain of technology or the Bill’s actual contents to make better sense of it.

    For the regular everyday citizens who are now subject to this law, it’s also beneficial. A major problem with recent legislation worldwide is that it’s often impenetrable to anyone without legal training. The ability to access laws and understand them is key to those working with, and striving to improve them.

    Meanwhile the Act is still not completed and final. Several UK Government departments, including OFCOM, have been delegated powers and abilities under the Act. There have been consultations (and there may be more) to address parts, and the outcomes of those will make a difference. Many people though, are probably expecting the worst.

    On this topic, governments around the world have been increasingly disinterested in listening to the concerns of the citizens affected by the Act, while making policy based on the wishes of a few dozen large companies, and their anecdotal ‘evidence‘.

    Of course, those that the Act was created to target will probably be the only ones not troubled by it, and that also says volumes about the quality of the law, and the futility of such laws worldwide. Not that such facts will stop things.

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