Digital Economy Act: the law's still an ass

The Digital Economy Act is flawed and dangerous

I'm a fairly cynical chap, but even I was surprised when the Digital Economy Bill became the Digital Economy Act: it was badly drafted, rushed through without proper scrutiny and became a bad law.

As I wrote at the time, the legislation "dropped its digital trousers and waved its digital arse" at the lot of us.

You'd think common sense would prevail, and that BT and TalkTalk's legal challenge would send MPs scurrying back to the drawing board.

Nope. The High Court has ruled in the government's favour, and the British Phonographic Industry for one is delighted. "Shareholders and customers of BT and TalkTalk might ask why so much time and money has been spent challenging the act to help reduce the illegal traffic on their networks," BPI boss Geoff Taylor said. "You're all our bitches now."

OK, he didn't say that last bit. But it's true all the same. If BT and TalkTalk don't appeal, we're stuffed.

Kangaroo court

One of the reasons BT and TalkTalk spent "so much time and money challenging the act" was because it stood to cost them enormous amounts of money - something which the High Court actually agreed with, removing the bit where ISPs would have to pay 25% of Ofcom's costs and the costs of establishing an appeals body.

It's nice that the review concluded that ISPs shouldn't help fund the creation of a kangaroo court. But it's still a kangaroo court.

It's possible to have bad law that's legally sound while being utterly stupid, and the DEA is a classic example of the type.

Don't take my word for it. Ask the academics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Just last month, their analysis of the Actexplained that "the DEA gets the balance between copyright enforcement and innovation wrong... the DEA has given too much consideration to the interests of copyright holders, while ignoring other stakeholders such as users, ISPs, and new players in the creative industry."

Anyone who doesn't think the Act was cynically and contemptuously rushed through Parliament when there were hardly any MPs there to oppose it really wasn't paying attention.

The DEA is bad law. It imposes unnecessary burdens on ISPs, could have a chilling effect on public wi-fi provision and demonstrated absolute contempt for democracy.

According to The Music Void, Google is considering "doing an Amazon" and launching its music service without the labels' permission - and the same report notes that Google's "Larry, Serge and Eric could buy the entire music industry with their personal money".

Perhaps they should.

Which would you rather see? Google-owned record labels, or an internet where you can only see what record labels say you can see? Make no mistake. The DEA is designed to deliver the latter.


Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.