(Source: Warner Brothers)

Wealthy British politician, Lord Peter Mandelson once described his hardnosed political career, stating, "I had to be the hard man – and sometimes the hit man." Now, thanks to millions in music and film industry lobbyist money, he has managed to get his pet project, The Digital Economy Bill, passed. The bill was opposed by the public, police, small businesses, and ISPs for its provisions allowing the termination of filesharers' connections and DMCA-like website takedowns.  (Source: The Sun)
The citizens of Britain get to pick up the tab for their government's policing of their internet activities

On Monday, citizens in Britain received some big news.  After months of debate, the "Digital Economy Bill" was passed with most of its controversial provisions surviving.  The bill will fund government internet monitoring and service termination of filesharers.  It also includes web takedown provisions similar to America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The bill was largely opposed by British law enforcement, the public, internet service providers, academics in the field of technology, and privacy advocates.  It enjoyed the hearty support, though, of the music and film industries which lobbied heavy for the bill pouring millions of pounds in support to help override the voice of the citizens.  

Lord President of the Council Peter Mandelson, a wealthy British politician, masterminded the bill with the help of his media industry colleagues.

The bill was hurriedly passed before the upcoming election, which is expected to hurt the current dominant party, the centrist Labour Party.  Opponents from the left and the right both derided the bill and are trying to seize a portion of control of the island nation from the Labour Party.

The bill assigns many duties, including internet domain name registration, copyright enforcement, and video game ratings to a single government funded independent regulator, OfCom.  

Starting in 2012, OfCom will have the power to start terminating or throttling connections of British citizens.  OfCom and record and film companies will collaborate together to try to identify the millions of British citizens who are illegally downloading content.  Those citizens will receive threat letters.  If illegal downloads don't cease or drop a prescribed present (currently 70 percent), OfCom will have the power to either throttle the citizens' connections or cut them off entirely.

The bill will also hold businesses, universities, and other public institutions financially responsible for infringement that occurs on their networks.  This means that small businesses will be forced to either risk bankrupting lawsuits or stop offering free Wi-Fi to customers.

Clause 18 of the bill is also quite controversial as it grants DMCA-like provisions.  Copyright holders will be able to contact OfCom to take down websites they claim are hosting their copyrighted content.  In the U.S., the DMCA has been abused excessively, with organizations such as the Church of Scientology using it to remove sensitive -- but not necessarily copyrighted -- information from the public domain.  Appeals can eventually restore sites, but the process can drag out for a long time.  Similar problems will likely ensue in Britain as individuals use Clause 18 claims to take down their enemies.

The bill's advocates claim that it will pay for itself.  They estimate that £1.2B ($1.9B USD) is lost yearly to piracy.  The bills proponents say it will lead to more tax revenue by preventing piracy and raising sales.  Its opponents on the right and left, however, argue that it amounts to collusion between the majority party and big business, and will come at the expense of the citizens' welfare.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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