Coalition Government U-turns on repealing Digital Economy Act

Jeremy Hunt has said that the Digital Economy Act, which was passed through Parliament before the general election, is here to stay.

The announcement by the new Minister for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, has been met with approval from the industry which claims parts of the act are beneficial – especially in terms of piracy.

According to FAST’s figures the UK faces software piracy rates of 27 per cent costing the UK software industry alone £1,096 million every year.

Hunt’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Ed Vaizey has been charged with overseeing the implementation of the Digital Economy Act as a go-between for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Vaizey will be responsible for implementing the copyright enforcement that the Digital Economy Act makes possible.

John Lovelock, chief executive of FAST said: “This is great news for the software industry, long struggling with internet piracy, together with other intellectual property rights holders. Our hope is that the graduated response provisions of this Act will be proportionate and drive traffic towards legitimate downloads. At this time of economic pressure this is great news for the country too, since more legitimate sales will mean more tax revenue and more workers in employment – everyone wins.”

The Institute of IT also said it fully supported proportionate action against online copyright infringement, as well as supporting many areas of fruitful and beneficial online activity that are increasingly vital.

Elizabeth Sparrow of the Institute told TechEye: “There is great potential for the Internet to positively engage people in political debate.”  

“This is one of many ways in which access and capability online can enrich individuals, widening and deepening inclusion and participation in UK society. Our approach to legislation in the digital arena must take into account what is at stake now and in the future.”

However, the organisation said the act, which also looks at the  internet as a whole had to be carefully considered claiming any hasty decisions could increase digital exclusion and harm those most in need of and most positively affected by Internet access and capability. The potential onerous burdens placed on many small companies, schools and libraries may reduce access and availability to many of the vulnerable members of society who may well derive the greatest benefit, it added.

TechEye talked to the CEO of the BCS, who remained sceptical about the usefulness of the bill. David Clarke, Chief Executive Officer of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT told us:

“The sections of the Digital Economy Act related to infringement of copyright on the Internet are a comfort blanket for the creative industries. We suspect those calling for these measures may not fully understand what they are getting, and we remain unconvinced that this will address the problem. In rushing this Bill through, our concern was that the Act would cause new problems – particularly for legitimate but more disadvantaged users. However, the reports of Ofcom’s approach to implementation are encouraging, particularly around classification of an ISP. We will be waiting to see how the new Government makes progress in this area.”