According to sources close to the Labour Government plans are afoot to roll out a major attack on online copyright theft and illegal filesharers, as part of new changes to the recently announced Digital Economy Bill.
Secretary of State Peter Mandelson is planning to introduce the changes to the Digital Economy Bill which would give him the power to make "secondary legislation" (legislation that is passed without debate) to change the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988).
Mandelson also wants to shut down (or at the very least, curtail the activities of) sites such as YouSendIt that let you easily transfer large files to friends and colleagues privately.
Free speech fight
Should these rather drastic changes to the Digital Economy Bill go ahead then we are likely to see a fierce fight between the British Government and proponents of free speech.
Mandelson explains these changes as follows
1. The Secretary of State would get the power to create new remedies for online infringements (for example, he could create jail terms for file sharing, or create a "three-strikes" plan that costs entire families their internet access if any member stands accused of infringement).
2. The Secretary of State would get the power to create procedures to "confer rights" for the purposes of protecting rights holders from online infringement. (For example, record labels and movie studios can be given investigative and enforcement powers that allow them to compel ISPs, libraries, companies and schools to turn over personal information about Internet users, and to order those companies to disconnect users, remove websites, block URLs, and so on.)
3. The Secretary of State would get the power to "impose such duties, powers or functions on any person as may be specified in connection with facilitating online infringement". (For example, ISPs could be forced to spy on their users, or to have copyright lawyers examine every piece of user-generated content before it goes live; also, copyright "militias" can be formed with the power to police copyright on the web.)