The entertainment industry has been trying for years to eradicate piracy by attacking the sites distributing the illegal content. But these sites keep on reappearing in a different shape or under a different name, so the next step was to crack down on the users themselves.
Seen as a clampdown on illegal downloaders, the controversial Digital Economy Bill didn’t create torrents of debate in Parliament on Wednesday night. It was passed by 189 votes to 47, and is a slightly watered-down version, with a few parts stripped out. [Read the whole 76-page bill here]
Nevertheless, the Digital Economy Bill will have serious consequences on illegal downloads of copyrighted material such as music, films or games, which incidentally are very popular among students.
Peer to peer (P2P) ‘torrent’ sites like The Pirate Bay or applications like LimeWire are commonly known as a source to cheaply fill up iPods with music, watch the latest film releases, or download computer games.
Here are some of the consequences of the Digital Economy Bill. These will likely affect those who live in private-rented accommodation and have their broadband supplied independently.
● “Copyright owners” must be provided with details (not identities) of infringers, which implies that internet service providers (ISPs) such as BT, Virgin, or TalkTalk must provide these details upon anonymous monitoring of your internet use.
● ISPs will be required to block users’ access to sites that offer illegal downloads, in this case hundreds of Pirate Bay-like sites. This is a measure many ISPs are likely to take as a first step towards enforcing the upcoming legislation.
● ISPs will have to send warning letters to users who consistently download copyrighted material. Ignoring the warnings might result in slower ‘throttled’ broadband speeds for the recipients of the letters or go as far as temporarily suspending internet access.
The University of Lincoln is taking steps to counter illegal downloading and has done since late last year. Computers connected to its network (either in university buildings or university accommodation) cannot access many illegal downloads sites. This applies for both wired and wireless connections.
Cafes, bars, hotels, or any other places that offer free WiFi connections are also expected to run into trouble with the new rules brought by the Digital Economy Bill. If clients use these connections to download pirated materials, business will see themselves forced to shut these services down.
There are several ways though (which The Linc doesn’t encourage nor disapprove of) to anonymise internet use and avoid ISP monitoring or university-enforced blockages. They include a bit of computer wizardry or purchasing access to a virtual private network (VPN).
Such an example is the iPredator VPN, created by the people behind The Pirate Bay. At £13 for three months, the service exchanges the IP number users get from their ISPs to an anonymous one, offering a safe and encrypted connection between the computer and internet. Using proxy services is another method.
Debate on the Digital Economy Bill is unlikely to stop here though. Many are expressing their dissatisfaction with the bill on Twitter, where #debill is now a trending topic. A sample of such tweets below:Tweet