[Note that I'm making liberal use of the Twitter hashtag #DEBill in place of "Digital Economy Bill" -- if you want to keep up to speed on this I encourage you to do the same...]
So it seems that the UK’s Digital Economy Bill is now all but certain to be passed into law. From all accounts the critical second reading was a pretty poor showing for democracy — literally, as just a handful of Britain’s 600-plus MPs were there to debate it.
TorrentFreak laments that this is the beginning of the end for online file sharing. I’m not so sure; in fact, I’ll go a step further and submit that the blowback from DEBill will extend far beyond the realm of first-tier digital activism.
Here are the first four consequences that come to mind:
I. Pirates will burrow deeper underground.
Pretty much a given, right? Technology moves faster than any government (or big media cartel) and those in the know are already prepared to flip the switch and disappear off the grid, where they’ll be exponentially harder to find.
So much for that.
II. Britain will be punished.
I don’t mean a distributed attack, per se — although that’s already been proposed by a devious user of Digg. What I mean is that connected travellers might give second thought to visiting the UK in the first place.
Let’s face it, Britain isn’t exactly the cheapest place for a holiday to begin with, and if you couldn’t use the WiFi at your bed & breakfast because the owners would be liable for what you were doing online wouldn’t you at least consider a stay somewhere else?
As a real-world example, I myself nixed on a trip to Dubai in 2007 for a destination where uploads to Flickr weren’t blocked.
III. Users will fight back.
Passing DEBill right before an election is called might well end up biting a few guilty parties in the ass. A comprehensive list of how MPs voted has already been published, along with a way to check if yours even bothered to show up.
IV. We’ll get our media elsewhere, thanks.
This would be my favourite outcome by far. If the Brits formerly known as file sharers would collectively boycott big media dreck and put their hard-earned cash behind projects like Pioneer One instead I would be thrilled — and the innovative artists creating such things would be pretty happy too, I imagine.
You could also bankroll your own artistic endeavours if you wanted to…
At any rate, it’s pretty obvious DEBill will do more harm than good — just maybe not in the ways imagined by those pulling the strings. What do you think?