Britain is taking the newest crack at Internet regulation, making a swipe at video games and human rights in the process. Cheers!
And Here……We…Go, Again
It’s no secret that the US has struggled to regulate both Internet content and usage. Without giving too much of a law history lesson, all previous attempts have failed. You can check out examples such as the CDA or COPA, but just take my word for it. So how is the rest of the world faring?
The UK just outlined its plans to deal with illegal file-sharers (those damn pirates!) as part of its Digital Economy Bill. According to the government the bill will:
“ensure ensure communications infrastructure that is fit for the digital age, supports future economic growth, delivers competitive communications and enhances public service broadcasting.”
Sounds awesome, right? As a future communication professional, it’s like a dream mission statement – so it probably won’t surprise you that the bill is a fail.
Digital Economy Bill – An Outline
For starters, you can read the entirety of the bill on Parliament’s website – here. Unless you’re accustomed to reading legal documents, I’d stay away.
- Legal framework for tackling copyright infringement by education and technical measurement
- New duties and powers granted to Ofcom (Office of Communication)
- Increased investment in mobile broadband and switch to digital radio by 2015
- Updating Channel 4 functions on TV and online
- Age ratings for all video games aimed at children 12+
Basically, the UK wants to protect creative content by punishing pirates and provide measures to introduce a thriving digital entertainment industry. I’d get more into it but for purposes of the blog, I’m only concerned with the bill’s problems.
Protecting Your Rights By Taking Them Away
For starters, the bill allows an entire household to be cut off from the internet if a single member is accused of copyright infringement. I say “accused”, because apparently there is no need for proof, evidence and/or trials. Although I doubt that is entirely the case, punishing everyone for the actions of a single person is unacceptable.
Additionally, the bill is intended to stimulate the digital economy yet doesn’t outline improvements to broadband infrastructure. Simply stated – many areas in the UK are without internet access, and this bill has no plan to fix it.
It also appears officials will be monitoring what users do on the internet. Shielded by the law, officials will be allowed to spy on a network and impose penalties wherever inappropriate actions are perceived.
Wrong Direction, Please Turn Around
I don’t have a problem with the video game rating system, because it’s already been established. I’m not going to debate why government deems one form of creative content appropriate over another – maybe another day.
The problem here is the wrongful application of law. You cannot promote a healthy online environment by stripping law-abiding citizens of basic rights. Piracy is an issue facing many industries, and governments are still failing to solve it.
As the video game industry moves deeper into the online and digital spaces, laws like this will continue to affect both professionals and their audiences. With globalization happening at an unprecedented rate, laws in one country will affect us all. As a PR professional, stay updated on legislature that stands to change your communication landscape. You can track the progress of this bill – here.
Article that talks about the bill and its effects – here.