Draconian UK Digital Economy Bill passes: huge blow for digital privacy, security, freedom

The Digital Economy bill, known on Twitter as #debill, passed today. The short version is that this thing makes the DMCA look like a warmup act. Cory's traveling, but you can expect his thoughts here soon. For now, Mike Butcher sums up the danger eloquently:
During the 1960s Chairman Mao told farmers to kill crop-eating sparrows, an edict which produced a plague of the insects which the sparrows normally ate. Likewise, the Digital Economy Bill, in trying to support artists' copyright and tackle illegal file-sharing, is about to produce a new culture - in which ISPs and bewildered householders are deluged with threatening legal letters from the entertainment industry.
This matters for America and other countries, too. There is now a precedent of a partner nation disconnecting users for alleged copyright infringement. This is a terrible moment for internet privacy and freedom.


  1. They rushed the legislation in before the elections. The two parties responsible for the legislation are the only two parties capable of winning the election.

    Democracy really works when both parties are trying to screw their citizens. What a crock.

  2. This is great news, it will bring about a new era of lols.

    I offer a reward of 1 million internets to the person or group who manages to disconnect a member of Parliament or recording industry executive for an alleged copyright infringement.

    1. I offer a reward of 1 million internets to the person or group who manages to disconnect a member of Parliament or recording industry executive for an alleged copyright infringement.

      It’s a nice idea. But in the real world, it’s not like any of those fuckers are ever gonna be faced with the consequences of their actions. See here for instance.

      It is to laugh. Very, very bitterly.

  3. The DEB is prima facie ridiculous because it will simply lead to average citizens training themselves better to avoid being caught through smarter use of encryption and anonymization for exchange of data.

    If DEB is “successful” in allowing infringement letters to be sent out in mass quantities, it will be “successful” in moving open interchanges into closed ones, which won’t prevent anyone from access to material that they want.

    I’ve heard many many times lately from people I know about how they wind up going to torrents and other sources to obtain material that they have the legal right to view, but can’t get in a format or a place in which the rightsholders allow it.

  4. Agreed, this is just an escalation. Crypto will defeat the trivial torrent sniffing that’s been going on. Next step after that will be defeating deep packet inspection at the ISP level.

    What will they do when there are no longer any technically feasible methods for identifying infringers?

  5. Well this is a big step backwards for the UK.

    Boy I’m glad I live in Australia where politicians would never be so stupid to try put in place massive legislation that could harm internet access for it’s citizens.

  6. No effort must be spared in getting MPs and their families banned from the internet with only accusations, no proof…

    What a foul piece of work the DEB is.

  7. For my music needs, my vast collection of vinyl LPs is looking (and sounding) better and better every day. And, 99.9% of what Hollywood puts out is garbage anyway, and I can happily live without the other 0.1%.

  8. Lets target the politicians, their aids, family, and friends. When they cannot get any Internet access …

  9. I for one welcome this utterly insane move, as it’s very unlikely I’ll get caught.

    God bless SSL, VPNs and Tor.

    Course, all they’ll do is catch the people who aren’t downloading significant amounts, and people with insecure connections.

    The end result will be that a great deal of people will adopt encryption etc, and actually improve their privacy.

  10. As one of my cousins points out, all it’ll take will be for the child of a smart lawyer to get nabbed, have the parent put up a test case to show the crock of shit it really is, but until then, I agree – target the politicians, their aides, etc. Any huge corporations like Apple or Westfield offering free Wi-Fi? Download your BitTorrents in their business.

  11. It’s a sad day indeed. I still can’t believe that after all the campaigning, letters of protest, and even MPs going against their party, the bill still got pushed through at the 11th hour.

    The Labour MPs, such as Tom Watchson and Austin Mitchell, deserve a lot of praise for going against a 3-line whip, which can get you expelled.

    BTW, here’s who tried to rescue the UK from the draconian bill: http://debillvotes.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/who-voted-no/ (I’ve put up a “Yes” list as well, but got too tired trying to work out their personal sites, etc – didn’t sleep yet).

  12. Itsumishi • #8 • 22:22 on Wed, Apr. 7 • Reply

    Well this is a big step backwards for the UK.

    Boy I’m glad I live in Australia where politicians would never be so stupid to try put in place massive legislation that could harm internet access for it’s citizens.

    Um you are aware what Australia is trying to do arent you? or where you just being sarcastic… just checking

    1. Definitely being sarcastic.

      If Rudd gets in again I would not be surprised if this sort of bill gets pushed through during his second term.

      I’m sure there has to be at least one member of the RIAA and MPAA who owns a nice ski lodge in Aspen where they can take the (Dis)Honourable Stephen Conroy for a nice holiday while their fine taylors get to work making him a suit lined with Benjamins.

      1. The sad thing is, Itsumishi, that our only real alternative, the Mad Monk Tony Abbot, is likely to impose far worse Draconian measures upon the Australian public.

        What a fantastic age we live in :P

  13. One door closes, another opens.

    The new dotcom boom will be in foreign nations with incompetent governments, who don’t give a damn what Sony wants censored.

    Hosting first, Then investment, then torrentfarms. You’ve not seen real piracy until it’s being run by pirates.

  14. Hmmm will the next V for vendetta be matrix style (hyperbole)? Just wondering… or will the net-citizens beat the script writer to it?

  15. Scour mainstream websites for reproduction of other peoples copyrighted content and bring it to the attention of the owner. An innocent photo on a news website, a bands logo on a record company website, the photo from flickr on the power company homepage. Turn this against the powerfull. Three strikes works both ways.

    1. Three strikes works both ways.

      Let me guess… You also believe in the Easter Bunny?
      You see when your daddy is rich, it’s called “youthful exuberance” or somesuch nonsense and you’ll get off with a slap on the wrist. The rest of us have to pay tribute to our lords and masters. I’m glad I’m not living in the UK. The rest of Europe better turn this into an example of “those crazy Brits” before it becomes politically expedient for our own masters to implement similar trash.

  16. Time for some enterprising chaps to sniff out some MPs unsecured Wi-Fi (or crack it) and go nuts with the piracy and kiddie porn.

  17. My MP, Paul Flynn, doesn’t seem to have voted either way even though I received quite an encouraging response from him. How infuriating!

  18. They managed to embroil the country in an illegal *invasion*. Did anyone really think they wouldn’t be able to push through a destructive bill?

  19. I have some friends in the UK and they were really hoping this wouldn’t happen. I think they are trying to make young kids pirates.

    1. I’ve been called a pirate since I was 7. I turned out just fine. ;)

      I joined the Pirate Party.

  20. Hopefully, since it’s election season, this can be used to unseat some of the ones who voted for the bill.

    It’s worth noting: it was not a majority of MPs voting for this bill. In fact, the majority of MPs did not vote at all; there were about 250 voting members out of 631.

  21. Notice the Lib Dem opposition to this bill was far weaker than Lib Dems commenting online would have you believe.

    Only the Pirate Party UK is fully opposed to this kind of legislation, if you are angry about the DEB please consider joining/donating.

  22. I live in the UK and stream a lot of videos from sites like MegaVideo. Does this new bill focus specifically on downloads, or am I at risk of getting a warning letter from my ISP?

  23. If only this could have been thrown out in the wash-up. I’m afraid I spent all my time fighting other bills and didn’t even notice this until it was too late.

    As people have said, this will encourage me, and others in the UK, to take measures to increase our own personal levels of crypto and privacy.

  24. My MP voted No as he always said he would and I always knew he would. And sadly, he also always knew it wouldn’t make any difference.

    The really depressing part is that the legislation on offer to try and reform Parliamentary procedures – partly to reduce this sort of thing, and to make it more accountable for its actions – was completely dropped in order to rush this (and other things, like the DNA retention law) through. That tells everything you need to know about priorities…

  25. Sigh.

    I remember studying democracy when I was a teenager; at the time it didn’t occur to me to wonder why it was being taught by the history department.

    My MP not being one of those who voted against, I just joined the Lib Dems. But it’s going to take more than that. Next steps, anyone?

  26. This is just another episode of the internet arms race. Since the media industry employs less people than are on the net, they whill lose it even with the advantage of their lobbyism.

    Hint to the media industry: do not fight your customers. They won’t like it.

    Greetings, LX

  27. Brilliant news….for corporatarians and totalitarians everywhere.

    Brilliant news…for laptop uses, computer stores and oil companies as all we have to do now is drive, hack & download. Inconvenient, possibly…but at least it gets us out of the house.

  28. > I just joined the Lib Dems.

    I just declined to renew my membership of the Lib Dems after five years because one of their peers stood up in the House of Lords and argued for the interests of the clients of the law firm that pays him £70k a year over those of the UK public.


    And then the leadership did nothing to slap him down and the party’s front-bench culture spokesman initially said he would do nothing to oppose the bill being rushed through


    Make no mistake – the Lib Dems did not vote against this bill.

    They merely voted against having it rushed through without debate at a point when they quite cynically realised there was no chance of their having to stand up and actually oppose it.

    I can’t in all conscience go and put leaflets through my neighbours’ doors urging them to vote for a party that does this.

    1. And Don Foster (LibDem spokesman) repeatedly spouted the bogus filesharing “costs” put out by the BPI and friends; supported taking “technical measures” (ie. throttling and disconnection) against copyright infringers (albeit with a longer process) and came up with the baffling idea that only photos taken within 50 years should be protected (as though the date would be written on the back!)
      Good on the LibDems for doing what they did but, boy, did they show how out of touch they are…

  29. Uk is run more like a neo-feudal country with almost communistic surveillance apparatus – 1984 style.

  30. Thing is, and correct me if I’m wrong, the bill isn’t *all* bad. Just some parts of it are incredibly horrendous. Unfortunately the bad bits are riding the not-so-bad bits and unless something miraculous happens they’ll stay there.
    And I doubt the lords or the Queen will stop it anymore. Though I would giggle a bit if she did send it back.

  31. Weird how the general Dutch news press seems unaware of what happened ‘next door’ today. As a country where internet is omnipresent, it seems to be at least mildly relevant for us.

    However, the Dutch news today IS reporting on the statistics of alien believers in the world…

  32. I’m torn with regard to the Liberal Democrats as my local MP is Don Foster who not only voted against the bill, but was present at the barely attended second reading of the bill and argued against it in the debate.

    The bill will spectacularly fail to prevent file-sharing instead it will be a boon for the companies that offer virtual private networking services and teenagers will start file-sharing offline by exchanging DVD-ROMs full of MP3s

  33. I guess you missed clause 43 then which is all about giving major media conglomerates the power to abuse copyright and use ‘orphan works’ in whatever way they see fit. Orphan works they seem to consider as a photo on Flickr or another photo sharing site.

    Democracy fail.

  34. Thinking about how some incredibly ill-informed politicians have shepherded this legislation through does make me a bit angry.

    It strikes me that the only legitimate recourse is to organise a publicised and extensive boycott of commercially licensed creative works. If enough people were to refuse to buy DVDs, CDs, mp3s, books for (say) the entire month of July 2010, it would send a clear message to the monsters who seem to believe that people are only there to be exploited.

    If you agree that this legislation is wrong, I would encourage you to join this boycott, and to urge all your friends to do so too.

    I’ll be whoring around any forum I can find to try and seed this as an idea.

    I know my posts tend to be wordy, so I’d appreciate any interpretation from like-minded people who can communicate effectively with the tl;dr crowd.

    Finally, I don’t think that people outside the UK should be feeling complacent about this – to paraphrase: “If you tolerate this, your neighbours will be next”.

  35. DJ Lars made me think with a lyric from his “Download this Song”. Paraphrasing, music was a product, now it is a service.

    Actually, I think he’s wrong. Music was always a service, over the last 12,000 years of human civilisation it has always been a service. But because of wax cylinders and phonographs etc for maybe the last 120 years it has been a product as well.

    So 1% outweighs 99%? Yeah, right.

    As many posters have already stated, I am about to learn a lot about Tor, VPNs and FreeNet.

  36. A badly written law. I’m sure it’ll be challenged, if not in the high court then certainly the european court. You have the right to a trial.

    If they had just worded/implemented it differently, as a tax on volume users, then this ridiculous bill would have worked for them.

    Now, normal people won’t be able to pay the legal costs and will just pay up. Members of the house of commons — of course — have more than enough money and will neatly avoid paying. Class justice.

    Meanwhile I’ll just have to watch my content on streaming video sites.

    1. I do hope you mean legal streaming sites. Streaming from other sites will make you a scheming devious http buccaneer and most likely, the sites will be shut down and the IP addresses of their visitors will be seized, tracked and have delightful letters sent to them.

      1. It’s more likely that the sites will be blocked, rather than shut down (if they’re in another country, for example). But they’re giving the responsibility for deciding on the ‘technical measures’ (by which they mean ‘punishments’) to OfCom.

        I’d love to read an interview on BoingBoing from someone who works for OfCom in this area. How do they feel about being put in charge of deciding on the next wave of citizen-tracking and censorship machinery?

  37. I watched the 2nd and 3rd reading, and my confidence in parlimentary democracy was destroyed. Maybe 40 MPs debating it – often raising very good insightful points, from various perspectives. They had a hobby programmer, an ex-BT engineer, a member of the BPI and musicians union all in there, talking about how it was a complex issue, and shouldn’t be rushed..

    Then they went to a vote, and suddenly 4 times the amount of MPs rushed over to vote on party lines. MPs who didn’t even make it into the chamber during or after the vote(at least not where the TV cameras could catch them). They just voted, and went back to whatever they were doing before.

    Before they start election campaigning based on reforming the House of Lords, how about some simple reforms to the House of Commons?

    I’d suggest these:
    * no voting on a bill unless you’d spent over 50% of the debate time /actually in the place it’s being debated/

    * Some sort of wiki for the MPs to work on new laws. With patchable amendments so you can see who’s amending what part, what their reasons are, and how the final bill will look with that amendment.
    And how existing laws will look, if they’re being amended by the bill.
    It should have a read-only html view that the public can see in real time.

    More outlandish ideas:

    * Unit tests for each clause. So that you can see exactly what circumstances are anticipated, and the outcomes required

    * Measurable results. If the bill doesn’t contain a way to see if it’s been effective after $Periodoftime then it cannot be passed.

    I’m very very angry with my government, and parlimentary democracy. If anyone has any smart ideas on how to get this changed please post them. Cheers.

  38. Sick news… First France, now UK. I see some sort of european trend. This is more than it looks and it looks very bleak (more police, databasing, cameras, repressive digital laws, digital fingerprinting, hardened detention laws, censorship…) and it’s an international trend. If it’s the price we pay for crisis and 11/09/01 shock, it’s way too much.

  39. Correct me if I’m wrong but only torrent users will get warning letters and ultimately disconnected. If you use “other” means to download files isn’t your internet activity covered by privacy laws. The interception of internet traffic is illegal under British and European law?

  40. And if this doesn’t result in a LibDem victory, then there really is nothing to complain about.

  41. I think you should maybe think again before joining the Pirate Party, anyone who wants to. They will forever remain a fringe party – at least perhaps vote for the LibDems who have the ‘Freedom Bill’ – splitting the vote amongst smaller parties will play right into the big one’s hands.

  42. It hasn’t got through the House of Lords in modified form yet. Sadly I have no idea which Lords to target to persuade them to reject it. Suggestions?

    (Once again, the unelected house is our last hope for democracy…)

  43. Question from someone across the pond, and I’m not asking to be sarcastic, I’m asking because I don’t know: What are the chances in the UK of a bill banning private citizens from using “non-approved” encryption? In the USA, the Clinton administration tried this, but didn’t get very far.

  44. This will take population back to the 1950’s, maybe everyone will be more up beat like in “Leave it to Beaver”…man this is going to create another baby boom…people fornicating out of boredom…lolz

  45. For all of you talking about encryption, remember that you can get disconnected from the internet permanently under this law on suspicion alone. That make encryption kind of useless because they don’t need any kind of proof. They may take the fact that you are using large amounts of encrypted data as reason to suspect you, and then it doesn’t matter what you are up/downloading.

    But I do think that using public Wi-fi connections to download illegal material is a good idea. You don’t have to target MPs, who rarely have to obey any laws, but you might want to target something like Starbucks. If enough Starbucks locations get their internet cut off, this law will get repealed because it will be Starbucks customers instead of internet geeks complaining about it.

  46. Filesharing can be and often is of materials *NOT* ever having been owned by someone forbidding their sharing. In fact- there’s likely more packet traffic on the web of files CREATED to be intentionally shared than ones being shared in violation of legality=Permission to share.

    DEB/DMCA/ACTA have some real targets which are quite different than what their Texts or PR claim. The claimed as targeted at “Copyright Protection” rhetoric is indeed a “Part” of all such Treaties/Laws etc. No sane person can deny the reality of Copyrighted materials as being Pirated on a Global scale. Except- even if there were zero financial loss from Piracy?

    The “Central Media” AkA RIAA/MPAA/Publishing Houses are De Facto an Oligarchy. One based on the stranglehold mindset. Defined as- All content not OWNED by that Oligarchy is literally Anathema to their worldview.

    And since the realms of Non-Oligarchy-Copyright= Author Owned/Copyleft/Creative Commons all send No Money to the Corporate Oligarchy, Any Non-Corporate files inherently are an Existential Threat to that Media Oligarchy. In plain terms it can be seen as:

    The Oligarchy faces so real a threat from filesharing of anything they do not get a cut of- even if they have NO legal claim upon it- that ACTA/DEB etc becoming law or not may be life or death to that Oligarchy.

  47. Given the evident popularity of torrents in the UK, this will certainly drive interest in anonymous and private internet access. IMHO, the best consumer-level services are XeroBank, Cryptohippie and JonDos. Also, for those using public WiFi routers, it’s crucial to fully disable geolocation in your browser.

  48. My MP showed at neither the reading nor the vote, after having assured me his involvement. I sent the following to him. It’s a shame that his seat (Manchester Gorton) seems pretty secure…

    Dear Gerald Kaufman,

    Further to our correspondence regarding the Digital Economy Bill, I can’t help but feel somewhat cheated by your statement, dated 30 March that you felt ‘it would not be satisfactory for this Bill to be rushed through parliament.’ Along with your assurance that ‘I shall, of course, take full account of the views you express.’

    From the records, I can see that you neither showed for the second reading on the 6 April, nor did you vote on the bill.

    I’d like to quote a recent opinion piece on the Bill as I find its sentiment rather fitting:

    “If you were serious about protecting creativity you’d pay attention to the howls of horror from authors and analysts alike. If you wanted a balanced debate you wouldn’t just rubber-stamp paragraphs written by the BPI, and trot out statistics that have long been discredited.

    If you really cared about the digital economy you wouldn’t introduce legislation that could kill public Wi-Fi, smother high-tech start-ups and get home businesses knocked off the net should the owner’s kids download the odd file.
    And if you wanted to be re-elected, you wouldn’t alienate your most vocal potential voters.

    What’s really depressing about all of this isn’t the Bill itself, although of course that’s a travesty. It’s that for the first time, thousands of us have seen how UK politics really works.

    In the run-up to the so-called Digital Election the parties all talk about crowdsourcing, about online engagement, about bringing politics closer to the people, but that’s all window dressing.

    Behind the iPhone apps, the Twitter feeds, the YouTube channels and the Build Your Own Poster sites it’s business as usual: empty heads, vested interests and utter contempt for the electorate.”

    Source: http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/the-digital-economy-bill-proves-digital-democracy-doesn-t-work-682134

    On a personal level, it is rather galling to have you lie to me in an attempt to appease me. If this is the way you gain you engage with your constituents, then I have lost all faith and interest in you as my MP.

    I’d like ask you to consider why you felt it was right not to act upon a bill that is so vastly geared towards the interests of a few corporations, over the freedoms of the public you ostensibly represent.

    In reality, I’m aware that this is largely not your decision anyway. In a sense, I am grateful not to be in your position; to be led and told what to do by your party’s whips (and the business interests they represent) shows a lack of personal autonomy that I would find hard to reconcile with ethical action.

    With that in mind, I’m sure you must be relishing the chance, this coming election, of losing your seat. Please be assured that I will use my vote to help this come to pass.

    Yours sincerely,


  49. Unbelievable.

    The leader of the Liberal Democrats, the CHAMPION, nay the LION of civil liberties was, for the third reading of the bill…..absent:


    Yet – his itinerary shows he was in Westminster that day for PMQs:


    These people are beyond contempt.

    Meanwhile, anyone who hasn’t done so really should look at the letter from our ‘Digital Tsar’ and chief cheerleader of the DEB, Stephen Timms:


    On the bright side, Twitter has claimed its first Labour scalp:

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