The copyright infringement provisions of the Digital Economy Act pose a substantial threat to the health and vibrancy of Britain's digital economy. Separate from the civil liberties issues the Act raises, these provisions will unnecessarily stifle innovation by, and growth of, the small, technology-driven businesses that form the backbone of the digital economy. Specifically, the provisions create the potential for:
(1) arbitrary or erroneous disconnection resulting from the Act's guilty-until-proven-innocent system;
(2) a substantial reduction in public wi-fi due to the imposition of unworkable burdens on wi-fi providers; and
(3) the elimination of websites that permit user-generated content, and the decline of web locker and software-as-a-service platforms, as a result of the web blocking provisions that allow a platform site to be taken down for inadvertently hosting a limited amount of infringing content.
If an entrepreneur is working to create the next big thing but finds that her Internet connection is randomly cut off, she can no longer access public wi-fi, and even if she could get Internet access she can't allow user-generated content on her website and the SaaS apps that she runs stop working as the underlying infrastructure gets shut down, she's going to have a big problem, assuming she wants to stay in Britain. In turn, Britain is going to have a big problem if the people who would be the key drivers of the digital economy–which by all accounts will be one of the main sources for growth and job creation in the coming years–are forced to choose between ceasing innovation or moving abroad.
The government has put tremendous efforts into promoting technology, entrepreneurship and the digital economy in recent years (the increase in entrepreneur's CGT relief introduced in last month's Budget being just the latest example). It would a shame to see all that good work discarded as a result of one misguided piece of legislation, but that is exactly what will happen if the copyright infringement provisions of the Digital Economy Act remain in force.