With the news recently that BT and Talk Talk have been refused the right to appeal against their failed legal challenge against the Digital Economy Act, now is as good a time as any to look again at what this bill means for the online world. The act intends to prevent Internet piracy of copyrighted media by forcing ISPs to write to suspected filesharers, and employ a ‘three strikes and out’ rule where users will see their Internet speeds drop to a sluggish crawl should they fail to cease downloading illegally. But with technology inevitably having moved forward in the time since it was pushed through in April 2010, and definitely since it was first devised, it is starting to look like a law that could become outdated before it even comes in.
Computing is becoming virtualised at a remarkable pace. 80% of IT companies who responded to the recent Cloud Computing Outlook survey said they were at least in the planning stages for a cloud computing strategy, and many of them already had Cloud implemented. For digital media, the recent launch of Apple’s iCloud and Google Music sees Cloud based technology being targeted at a wide consumer market. The transition towards wide-scale use of Cloud systems has begun not only at a business level but at a consumer one too. How long are we likely to have to wait before the majority of our media is stored online?
So what impact can the Digital Economy Act have when in the next few years we expect to see less and less data being stored on our individual hard drives? What would piracy even look like in a system where data is stored on virtual servers? Rather than simply downloading material from Internet to home computer, free access to copyrighted material will become far more dynamic. The monitoring of bandwidth usage that the Digital Economy Act relies upon would be an ineffective way of monitoring infringements of copyright in a virtual system, and would be yet another instance of too little, too late from those trying to put an end to piracy. I’m afraid that by the time the government catches up the pirates will be gone, the treasure buried, and the plundering will begin on a new patch of the Internet’s seven seas.