It seems that the UK government is not a fan of you enjoying free Wi-Fi access with your morning cup of coffee.

According to ZD Net UK, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) issued an explanatory document (Word Doc download) that explains why free & open Internet access should be more closely monitored for potential copyright infringement.  It boils down to that coffee shops, libraries, universities and any other business or establishment that offers free Internet access  could be held responsible for any copyright infringement done over their connection as if they had done it themselves.

Through out the UK and the European Union, there has been a lot of talk of “three strikes” laws which would have people losing their Internet connections if they were found to be repeatedly be violating copyright by downloading illegal files.  This new advice offered by the BIS, if included in the upcoming Digital Economy Bill, would see your local coffee shop being treated no differently.

Each establishment would have the option of choosing to be classified as an “ISP” (Internet Service Provider) or a “Subscriber.”  If they should choose the former, this means they would have to keep records of every person that accessed their connection, just like any other ISP.  This would be a daunting task for any business, and could quickly kill any interest they have in maintaining a connection.  If they should choose to be a “subscriber”, they wouldn’t have to keep the records, but if three copyright infringements were found to becoming from their connection, they could be shut down.

Lilian Edwards, professor of internet law at Sheffield University, told ZDNet UK, “”This is going to be a very unfortunate measure for small businesses, particularly in a recession, many of whom are using open free Wi-Fi very effectively as a way to get the [customers] in.”

Prof. Edwards is correct, and this is another unfortunate example of how the copyright holders are becoming the de facto lords of the Internet.  It seems every new law passed in regards to the Web has become about protecting copyrights, and each time you can trace it back to the film and music industries.  They are so concerned about their bottom lines, and have enough money to woo politicians, that they are stifling the expansion and innovation that the Internet should bring with it.

There is no doubt that copyrights are being infringed on the Net, we aren’t so naive to believe otherwise, but considering the fact that 1.73 billion people are on the Internet, the number engaging in piracy is just a drop in the bucket.  The entertainment industry is helping to punish the Internet as a whole for the actions of a relative few.

Businesses have indeed started to use free Wi-Fi as a way to attract customers, and considering how lousy the connections usually are, they aren’t good enough for anything beyond e-mail.  Now you want to use scare tactics to stop them from even offering that?  Where are the statistics to show how much piracy is conducted in a Starbucks?  My bet would be it’s about as close to zero as you can get, but they won’t stop copyright holders from insisting that one guy who downloaded a Lady Gaga song is enough reason to shut down the whole lot.

The people need to start fighting back and reminding their governments we far outnumber the copyright holders.  This isn’t to say we should be downloading copyrighted materials as we see fit, but that the copyright holders should have a lot less say in how and where we get to  use the Internet.

Categories: News, Wi-Fi   

2 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

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    May 20th, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

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    September 18th, 2016 at 12:33 am #

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