UN: Britain’s Digital Economy Act Violates Human Rights
The Digital Economy Act with its ability to cut off Internet access violates our human rights, says the UN
A report from the United Nations has labelled some aspects of the UK’s controversial Digital Economy Act as disproportionate, and warned they should be repealed.
The report was written by Frank La Rue, who is the special rapporteur on freedom of expression for the United Nations (UN).
In his report, he flagged the controversial provision within the Digital Economy Act (DEA), that could potentially cut off music and film pirates from the Internet, as a violation of our right to free expression.
“While blocking and filtering measures deny access to certain content on the Internet, States have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely,” said the report.
“The Special Rapporteur is deeply concerned by discussions regarding a centralised “on/off” control over Internet traffic,” it added. “In addition, he is alarmed by proposals to disconnect users from Internet access if they violate intellectual property rights.”
Currently in the UK, people who are found to be downloading or pirating content illegally are issued a warning. Further violations trigger other measures including speed limits or even cutting off access to the Internet for the most persistent offenders.
“This also includes legislation based on the concept of “graduated response”, which imposes a series of penalties on copyright infringers that could lead to suspension of Internet service, such as the so-called “three strikes-law” in France and the Digital Economy Act 2010 of the United Kingdom,” said the report.
La Rue called on the government to “repeal or amend” the legislation, as it is a “violation” of the right to free expression. The report has been presented to the Human Rights Council.
High Court Battle
The UN report directly contradicts the recent judgement at the High Court.
Two ISPs, namely BT and TalkTalk, have been spearheaded the fight in the UK to overturn the DEA’s copyright measures.
The ISPs had argued in court that the DEA, which came into force in June 2010, was disproportionate, and that it infringed users’ basic rights. They also said it had not had enough parliamentary discussion, when it passed just before last year’s general election.
But in April their objections to DEA were dismissed in London’s High Court.
Both BT and TalkTalk applied for leave to appeal but were turned down.
The Digital Economy Act is not only unpopular with ISPs, but has also faced consistent criticism from open rights campaigners.
“Cutting people off the Internet for copyright infringement is clearly the wrong thing to do,” said Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group.
“The Digital Economy Act is so bad that highly respected institutions are calling on the UK to repeal it,” he added. “Jeremy Hunt should take heed, and ditch this embarrassing and repugnant legislation.”