Sunday, November 29, 2009

WiFi and the Digital Economy Bill

The UK's Digital Economy Bill which is already hitting much opposition with over 22,000 objections listed on the government’s official petitions site now faces a new potential problem in that it could be in breach of EU laws. Professor of Internet Law at the University of Sheffield Lilian Edwards has now claimed that the Bill could make it impossible to operate a free wireless network legally.

The Bill is aimed not just at the suspected copyright infringer but at "a subscriber to an internet access service [who] has allowed another person to use the service, and that other person has infringed the owner’s copyright by means of the service". This means if you have a wifi service which is unsecured you would become responsible for their alleged copyright infringement. So anyone with a free Wi-Fi network now is liable for strangers' copyright infringements. So does this include or exclude cafes, hotels, community services and remember Swindon is about to offer city wide wifi.

Wi-Fi operators could police their networks and block certain unlawful file-sharing sites, but is this really pratical and who decides and draws the line? Then there is the question of the European E-Commerce Directive, which gives network providers immunity from liability for the actions of their users while they are ignorant of those actions and have no real effective control. The Directive also says that operators have no obligation to monitor networks.

No comments: