The highly controversial Digital Economy Bill has received royal assent today, and is now law.
Some of the measures in the new Digital Economy Act will come into effect immediately, with others being realised in two months’ time, after further public consultation.
Opposition to measures in the Act remains strong. The Act requires Internet service providers (ISPs) to send letters to anyone accused of infringing copyright by the rights holder, and eventually to cut off customers’ internet connection if they fail to comply.
Websites hosting pirated content could also be blocked under the Act, and although proponents say these steps would protect content creators, opponents, who presented a petition to parliament with thousands of signatures, see the Act as a threat to civil liberties.
One of the country's largest ISPs, TalkTalk, has said it would rather go to court than disconnect a customer’s account for alleged copyright infringement. It has also pledged to never surrender a customer’s details to copyright holders without a court order.
Andrew Heaney, executive director of strategy and regulation at TalkTalk, wrote on the company blog: "Many Draconian proposals remain [in the Act], such as the presumption that they [customers] are guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent, and, as in China, the potential for legitimate search engines and websites to be blocked."
"TalkTalk will continue to battle against these oppressive proposals."
The Digital Economy Act has been the subject of a great deal of controversy, after the bill was rushed through in a vote in the House of Commons, following a debate attended by under 40 MPs. The bill was passed through the Commons to the House of Lords with a majority of 142 votes. Campaigners for and against the bill had spent thousands of pounds attempting to catch the attention of politicians.
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