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UK MP: Sections of the Digital Economy Act are “Deeply Worrying”

UK MP: Sections of the Digital Economy Act are “Deeply Worrying”

Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert criticizes the idea that an IP address can identify anybody at all, and more importantly, that such an important piece of legislation was hurried through with minimal debate and actually voted on by a tiny minority.

It’s been almost 6 months now since the UK govt passed the controversial Digital Economy Act that includes“3-Strikes,” website filtering, and a virtual ban on public Wi-Fi, and still people are criticizing what the legislation will mean for the UK, especially considering the hurried, and lackluster fashion in which it was passed.

Cambridge’s Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert, who just happens to have a PhD in Biological Chemistry, is making it clear in a recent interview that he is less than happy with the whole affair.

He finds sections of the Act “deeply worrying,” mainly those that concern “blocking and disconnection issues.”

Huppert says that although he sympathizes with a copyright holder’s desire to protect his content, it doesn’t always mean that any sort of protection will do. He points out that a copyright holder can obtain the IP address of someone it suspects of infringement, but the whole notion that it can accurately identify who is responsible is “simply wrong.”

“”Firstly, there are people hacking into Wi-Fi ” what will the consequences be for open Wi-Fi? What do you do about a cafe that gives it away free? Realistically, they can’t know what someone is doing on it,” he says. “This may not be an issue though, as the latest proposals seems to be suggest they’ll be exempted if they’re not too big. But it’s the idea that you can simply identify who it is that’s wrong.”

Huppert blames the lack of a proper solution squarely on the fact that the legislation was hurried through with minimal debate.

“There’s a thing called the politician’s synergism: we must do something, here’s something, therefore we must do this,” he says.

He’s right. A process that would’ve normally taken several weeks or even months of legislative scrutiny was squeezed into a two-hour Commons debate where only 39 of 646 MPs took part (5%). Worse still, only 236 MPs actually voted (189 Ayes, 47 Noes).

“”I’m also against the process that led to them being there, as it’s very clear there wasn’t time, they were simply rushed through ” effectively there was about an hour,” he adds. “Politicians always say things were rushed through, but actually in this case it was really extreme.”

Huppert does hope that the final version of the Act does contain some additional safeguards like “very large fines” for copyright holders that “knowingly falsely accuse people,” but it’s not much comfort to Internet users who could find their household disconnected from the Internet if a neighbor decides to hijack their connection.

With the Digital Economy Act set to drastically alter the digital landscape, let’s hope it has more safeguards than this.

Stay tuned.

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Jared Moya
I've been interested in P2P since the early, high-flying days of Napster and KaZaA. I believe that analog copyright laws are ill-suited to the digital age, and that art and culture shouldn't be subject to the whims of international entertainment industry conglomerates. Twitter | Google Plus

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