The Digital Economy Bill and Cornwall's Tourist Industry

Here is the text of an email I posted earlier on Network Cornwall, a county-wide mailing list for businesswomen in Cornwall.

It’s about how tourism businesses such as B&Bs, guesthouses and cafés are affected by the ‘unintended consequences’ of the the new Digital Economy Bill, a hastily rushed-through piece of legislation that will pass into UK law today.


Free Wi-Fi in Cornwall’s hotels: could become a thing of the past due to the Digital Economy Act

Hi all,

Do you run a B&B, guesthouse, hotel, cafe or bar in Cornwall that offers Wi-Fi or other internet access to guests as part of your service? If so, please read on about new UK legislation that will affect you.

(If you don’t offer internet access to guests, or have no plans to do so, there’s no need to read this email.)

Last night Parliament rushed through a new law, the Digital Economy Bill, ahead of the general election. The aim of the law is to clamp down on digital piracy in the UK – which means people who download or share copyrighted material like music, films and TV programmes without paying for them.

Although it has good intentions, the Bill looks set to cause massive problems for people who share their internet connection with others – such as B&Bs and cafes who offer free Wi-Fi to guests.

It obliges your internet service provider to monitor activity on your internet connection and send you warning letters if it looks like copyrighted material has been downloaded or shared on your network.

If you receive three such letters from your ISP, your connection may be slowed down (‘throttled’) or even suspended temporarily. There is no definition in the law of how long ‘temporarily’ might be.

This has clear implications for people in the tourist industry who share an internet connection with guests as part of the ‘package’ offered.

If you allow your guests to use an internet connection that you pay for, and your guests use that connection to download or share copyrighted material (which thousands of people do nowadays, often without even realising it), it is YOU who will be assumed to be the guilty party, YOU who will receive warning letters from your internet service provider, and YOU who may eventually have your internet connection ‘temporarily’ cut off.

If you want to appeal against the letters, or against the threat of having your connection suspended, as the law stands currently you will have to pay your own court costs to do so.

This is a very ill thought-out piece of legislation that has been rushed through Parliament ahead of the election without proper debate or consideration of the wider implications. You can read more about it, and about how it affects people who share an internet connection with others, here in the Daily Telegraph.

If you have any thoughts about this I would love to hear from you, as I am thinking of writing an article to raise awareness of this issue for Cornwall’s tourism industry.

Kind regards,

Fiona


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