UK Digital Economy Bill A Strike Against Internet Freedom

BY CCIA Staff
April 8, 2010

Despite protests from thousands of Internet users, the British House of Commons has passed its Digital Economy Bill. Once the bill passes the House of Lords, it allows the government to block websites over copyright issues, requires ISPs to pass along peer to peer file sharing notices to Internet users from copyright holders and opens the door to disconnection from the Internet as a punishment for copyright infringers.

Among the more controversial provisions is one that allows the Secretary of State for Business to block “a location on the Internet which the court is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright.”

The Computer & Communications Industry Association strongly supports traditional copyright law, but is deeply concerned about the nature of this new law that puts profits of big movie and music producers above the rights to due process of Internet users. The legitimate rights of many parties need to be considered when modifying copyright law. CCIA has studied the economics of stricter copyright enforcement in its report “Fair Use in the U.S. Economy.” The report found industries relying on fair use exceptions to copyright law accounted for $4.5 trillion in revenues, 16 percent of the GDP and employed 17 million people.

The following statement can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“This is not about flagrant copyright infringement, which we oppose. This is about using an uzi to combat mosquitos. Sure that method may make for better movie footage, but there’s more at stake here than the box office. Once we turn our ISPs into law enforcement agents, governments with much worse human rights records are going to demand the ISPs use this same technology that catches copyright infringers to catch political dissidents.

“Zero tolerance enforcement in the absence of balanced fair use laws is also an economic blow at a time when no nation needs that. It’s ironic this bill would reference the digital economy in its title. Our tech association has extensively studied the economic contributions of copyright and exceptions like fair use. The tech industry and other innovators that rely on fair use account for one sixth of the U.S. economy and one in eight jobs. Nations striving for economic growth need to support innovation over extra profits for specific existing industries.

“The tech and Internet industries rely on sensible IP regimes – just like pure copyright-related industries. Both contribute to the economy and have a role to play in growing the economy. Despite that contribution, the economics should be secondary to the broader danger of chipping away at Internet openness and freedom.”

 

Additional Background:

Using the same World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) methodology that a 2003-2007 International Intellectual Property Alliance study used, the 2007 CCIA report on fair use in the U.S. economy showed that industries dependent on fair use and other copyright exceptions made an even larger contribution to the U.S. economy than the “copyright” industries. Our study found one sixth of the US economy and one in eight jobs depend on fair use and other copyright exceptions.

 

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