wifi[1] A controversial Internet regulation bill moving forward in the United Kingdom has champions of public wifi access up in arms.

The Digital Economy Bill copyright law would extend the controversial “three strikes” policy to providers of public wireless Internet access, meaning that they would be subject to disconnection from the Internet if a customer used their network to download copyrighted material illicitly via peer-to-peer.

Affected entities include coffee shops and restaurants, libraries, and even universities. Given that small businesses and libraries simply cannot afford the detailed record-keeping necessary to act as ISPs, critics of the bill say, this will effectively outlaw most public wireless Internet access in the United Kingdom.

This could have profound effects on e-reading, especially when so many e-book services operate “in the cloud.” It will also make it hard to access the electronic news sources that more people are coming to use instead of newspapers (a story about that will go up in another hour or so). At the least, it will make libraries’ mission of providing free access to information significantly harder.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is the kind of thing that some of the governments promulgating ACTA would like to see put in place all over the world. There really needs to be a balance in copyright enforcement: rampant piracy may be bad, but if we let the big content business have its own way it will walk all over the rights of consumers in trying to stomp it out.


  1. There is another solution: require all users of p2p to encrypt their traffic!

    I think this smacks of Cory Doctorow Big Brother alarmism. If coffee shops put up signs that said politely, “Please don’t use our wifi to download pirated stuff, or we may have to pay a fine.” You’d be surprised at how much mere politeness can accomplish.

    Libraries and universities are a different story. Members have individual accounts (and presumably can be required to sign agreements consenting to individual liability). I could be way offbase owing to my ignorance of UK law.

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