Digital Economy Bill 2010 Info and FAQ

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Background reading

FAQ myths and facts

How will P2P be monitored?

P2P torrents show information about what IP (internet) addresses are sharing the torrent. This can be recorded. The monitoring companies are likely to request the copyright material from the IP address, and record that the material is uploaded to them, as distributing the material is more serious legally than receiving it.

These IP addresses are passed to ISPs who can then match the IP address to an internet subscriber account, assuming that they are keeping accurate records.

Will encryption protect bit torrent users from detection?

Not in itself, because it is the torrent trackers that are being monitored. It can be avoided, either by using tunneling (virtual networks which change the IP address you appear to be using) or by using anonymous P2P technologies. Hence Section 17, which would allow the government to quickly impose new legal obligations on any service that may include infringing usage. This approach however would be likely to stifle technological innovation in the UK in any service that allows users to transmit content.

Will legal torrents be banned?

No. The companies will monitor torrents that distribute material rights holders own the rights to.

How will 'infringement notification' letters work?

Most of this is not in the Bill. Ofcom will help construct a code that will be passed through parliament by Statutory Instrument, without further debate.

After a number of infringements, people will receive letters or emails. These may go to defunct email addresses held by the ISPs. After a number of letters, infringers may be disconnected, their traffic slowed or their access to certain sies eg torrent sites, barred. These sanctions are likely to be applied without a court being involved although there will be an appeal after the fact to a tribunal and then eventually, if grounds, to the courts. The main punishment will thus be disconnection without trial.

What happens if someone else infringes copyright using my account?

You are responsible. In this Bill, the account holder (subscriber) is responsible for any infringing behaviour. This approach is being used because the evidence collected about P2P cannot possibly identify the individual infringer, only the (internet / broadband) account holder. Whether that is a reasonable legal approach is another matter.

Does that mean an end to open wifi and internet cafes?

As currently written, we believe it would.

Who pays for letter writing and what's the cost?

The cost may be several hundred million a year, nearly as much as the alleged cost of infringement. The costs will be split between ISPs and rights holders, how is not in the Bill, but would be determined by the code drafted by Ofcom and approved by Parliament without debate or scrutiny in a Statutory Instrument. ISP costs would inevitably be passed to all broadband customers.

When does disconnection start?

After a year of letter writing, infringement is supposed to reduce by 70%. If it hasn't, the Secretary of State may introduce this second raft of restrictions. he will receive a report from Ofcom but is not obliged to listen to their advice, and may take additional information and circumstances into account. We believe this lacks impartiality.

Will ISPs use Deep Packet Inspection to check if individuals are receiving copyright material?

Not currently. The technology may however be used to inspect traffic to see if material in general is being shared; some believe this poses privacy problems (lack of consent to have your data intercepted).

Who is for and against the Bill's disconnection and Section 17 proposals?

For the proposals

  • UK Music
  • BPI
  • Major record labels
  • Film industry lobbyists

Against the proposals

  • Consumer Focus
  • Liberty
  • ISPA, TalkTalk, BT
  • Open Rights Group
  • FIPR
  • Section 17 opposed by Google, Ebay, Facebook, Yahoo!