Digital Britain: Few Surprises As It Looks To Prop Up Content Industries
from the government-doing-what-government-does dept
The final version of the UK government’s Digital Britain report, its blueprint for updating the country’s tech-related laws and infrastructure, has been released today, and it doesn’t look like it holds too many surprises. Like the interim report that was released earlier this year, it’s full of a lot of vague language, and as the UK’s opposition party points out, seems most interested in propping up failing old-media business models. Two aspects of the report are grabbing the most attention. First, the government will start a 50p (about 80 cents) monthly tax on landline phones in order to build out broadband networks in rural and other unserved areas. Second, and more controversially, the report says the UK’s communications regulator must cut file-sharing by 70%, and calls for ISPs to help accomplish this by keeping tabs on their users, sending them notification letters when they download infringing material, and giving up their details to content companies (with a court order) so they can be sued. It stops short of creating a rights agency run by the copyright cartel, as had been rumored, and while it doesn’t endorse the use of a three-strikes policy, it does say that regulators will have the power to force ISPs to use other technical means (such as throttling connections, traffic shaping, and even blocking certain sites, services and protocols) to try and stop persistent infringers.
The report pays a lot of lip service to the fact that content businesses need to update their business models to the changing digital environment, but it really does very little to help facilitate this, instead preferring to make stopping piracy the central focus. The government seems to have fully bought into the entertainment industry’s propaganda — that it can’t do anything until piracy stops, that it can’t move forward as long as there’s file-sharing. The reality isn’t that the industry can’t move forward, but rather that it won’t. And, after all, if the government is willing to get involved and offer the industry special protection to prop up its ailing business models, why should it?