The digital economy act to kill start-up culture in the UK | April 17, 2010

The recent passing of the UK Digital Economy Act has generated outrage amongst the web community. Large media business have effectively lobbied government under the spurious claim that without protection the future of the digital economy in the UK is at threat. However the future of digital isn’t locked inside a few big content companies distributing their goods electronically. The future of the digital economy is in empowering a creative class to produce new and as yet unheard of business opportunities on the web. So rather than protecting the digital economy, the Digital Economy Act will have the effect of protecting outdated business models and harming innovation in the UK and handing over initiative to more liberal and less restrictive countries.

One potentially damaging aspect facing UK start-ups and freelancers is the one makes the owners of open wifi networks responsible for the traffic that passes over the network. This three strikes and your out process that requires no proof and provides no real means of defence will have a damming effect on the coffee shop culture in the UK. Bars, cafes, public libraries and any other wifi provider will now be responsible for the traffic on their network. As such, many will stop providing open access for fear of disconnection, and the cafe working culture so important to the start-up community is at risk of coming to a crashing end.

Considering it’s taken so long to foster this culture, I think it’s going to be a huge loss to the digital economy and a terrible shame. How many potential Dopplers, Moos LastFMs are we going lose because of this? I wonder?

Posted at April 17, 2010 1:52 PM


boon said on April 17, 2010 3:30 PM

I took part in the protest in front of parliament before the bill became a law. It’s absolutely absurd that policymakers think this is a way to patch the current economy. They obviously do not realize we’re experiencing a fundamental shift in the way businesses are run, and how content is being produced, consumed, traded and exchanged. I hope that more people like Andy realize this and continue to stand up for an open network, as the fight is not yet over.

Jon B said on April 17, 2010 6:06 PM

I’m wondering what will become of the BT FON service - for anyone who doesn’t know, if you have your broadband through BT you are automatically signed up to the BT FON service - this service makes your router act as a wireless access point for anybody else who gets they broadband from BT - the idea being you can share your wifi connection and in return you get to use anybody elses wherever you go.

So, will the digital economy act make everybody BT has unwittingly included in this service into potential criminals if somebody uses their wifi for ‘evil’?

George B said on April 17, 2010 6:14 PM

In practice, itís likely to be three strikes and youíre sued out of business. Courts will inevitably look to the amendments made by the Digital Economy Act and the initial appeals body, when considering liability.

Rather than a complete disappearance of open Wi-Fi, I think itís more likely that public connections will be very restricted ones, with access to only a handful of carefully pre-vetted services. So, youíll be able to check your email on Google and update your status on Facebook, but thatíll be about all.

Itíll be enough to draw in the extra customers needed to justify the expense of providing Wi-Fi, but completely kill innovation. A small part of the Web, pickled in aspic.

Simon Willison said on April 17, 2010 7:59 PM

Much as I abhor the DEBill, I don’t think it will spell the death of freelancers in coffee shops - it’s going to sell a LOT of 3G dongles though.

Alberto Mucignat said on April 18, 2010 11:02 AM

since 2004 in Italy we have a quite similar law about wifi and internet connection restrictions. so I guess maybe this could even up our markets ;-)

i’m kidding, this is really sad for those of us watching at uk as a future model for digital market.

maybe WE should lobby together against the old economy business model and take EU to develop a new digital culture with modern laws that could unleash a new digital market…

Dave said on April 18, 2010 5:30 PM

I agree with you Andy, but what can we do about it?

Roy said on April 19, 2010 12:03 PM

i am in the process of forming a company, and up until last month i was pretty much set on starting up in UK.

now I am not so sure anymore.

one can only hope that the bill will be overturned at some point.

meanwhile we are looking at which country might be suitable for our startup.

mark rushworth said on April 28, 2010 3:23 PM

The sad fact is the bill which has been on the cards for ages and subject to a lot of public outcry has been pushed through in at the last minute as part of the governments ‘washing up’ process… this is yet another sneeky tactic of Labors to force through policies without debate :/

although many letters were sent to politicians and petitions raised these were dismissed as being the work of ‘nerds’ and not considered to be part of the popular belief.

Like joining the EU etc, this has been taken out of our hands and placed in the hands of those political agendas… i can guarantee that it wont be revoked any time soon.

Tony said on April 30, 2010 10:59 AM

Like you, I’m dismayed by the DBB. It makes very little sense at all.
It contravenes the EU legislation that was passed to prevent EU member state citizens being denied access to the Internet for any reason. The bill won’t stand up in an EU court.
There is a loop hole in the bill already, in that you can just communicate to your ISP your legal status as a communications provider (Sharing your single connection with others via wireless for example) Instead of a subscriber (Providing that your contract with your ISP does not forbid that.)
Then the bill’s legislation has limited or little application because it is so badly put together.

Aaron said on May 19, 2010 9:24 PM

Being an American, I just recently learned about this bill. Im horrified how it was pushed through with all the protests and petitions against it
Knowing that this can pass in the UK with the EU treaties its just a matter of time before US companies loby a simmilar law through.
Government needs to see that new age copyright infringment isn’t like running into a store and grabbing a handbag, its running in copying the handbag, then leaving the original and taking your new copy.