Digital Economy Bill: why you should worry

Smarta has heard a lot of debate over the controversial Digital Economy Bill over the last few weeks - and rightly so. Critics say the bill is being rushed through Parliament without being properly debated, describing it as 'a spatchcock that does part of the work it was intended to do but not all of it'.

From Talk Talk to BT to Google, Yahoo and even the British Library, the UK's web industry is almost unanimous in its opposition to the bill. But how will it affect small businesses - and why should you worry about it?

The Bill, aimed at protecting UK businesses from 'challenges of modern technology' - specifically, protecting businesses from piracy, creating punishments for illegal file-sharers. So far, so logical - but two clauses in particular are causing controversy.

One, Clause 18, nee 17 - it's been amended twice already, and looks like it might be amended again - will give the secretary of state the power to order internet service providers (ISPs) to block a site they deem to be contravening copyright rules . Imagine the effect on social media sites such as Twitter or YouTube. Merely posting a video, song or even image could see your favourite site shut down.

The Bill will charge the owners of wifi networks where illegal files are downloaded, rather than the downloaders themselves. Encouraging customers to your door by offering free wifi? Bootstrapping by making use of wifi offered by your local coffee shop instead of having it at home? Not any more!

Campaign site 38 Degrees has teamed up with the Open Rights group to make writing to your MP urging them to prevent the Bill from being rushed through Parliament easy. Just go to their website, type in your postcode, put in your name and email address, and you've written to them.

Best do it now, while you're still thinking about it.

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