Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Digital economies bill takes aim at public wi-fi

Professor Lilian Edwards was in fine form in the Guardian yesterday pointing out how the government's digital economies bill is aimed, amongst other things, at banning public wi-fi networks.
"A lot of people have talked to me over the last week about Wi-Fi (open and closed, i.e. password-protected) and the Digital Economy bill. The more I try to find answers, the more ludicrous it becomes. For instance, last week it turned out that a pub owner was allegedly fined £8,000 because someone downloaded copyright material over their open Wi-Fi system. Would that get worse or better if the Digital Economy bill passes in its present form?
To illustrate, I'm going to pick my favourite example of a potentially worried wireless network provider: my mum.
She doesn't understand or like the internet, refuses to even think about securing her Wi-Fi network. What is her legal status? What will she say if/when she receives warnings under the Digital Economy bill because someone has used her open Wi-Fi to download infringing files?"
Highly recommended. It's a natural deduction from the argument that someone running an open wi-fi network cannot be expected to know who might be using that network illicitly, that the way to deal with this is to ban open wi-fi networks. This, however, as Lilian so eloquently illustrates, leads to further unintended consequences. And so we have the bad Net policy domino effect, where 3 strikes leads to banning public wi-fi leads to... and all because Peter Mandelson doesn't understand the Internet.

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