Sunday, January 29, 2023

Pirates and Pornographers Have Tough Times Ahead in the UK

Pirates and Pornographers Have Tough Times Ahead in the UK

The Digital Economy Act of 2017 received royal assent in the UK, passing into law on April 27th. The act was oft-described as a “Christmas tree bill” because of the variety of areas that it covered, including guidelines for minimum broadband speeds, restrictions on online pornography, and lengthier prison sentences for digital media pirates.

Also read: The US Government Is Researching Ways to Hack Your Brain

UK Imposes Four-Finger Rule

The new law effectively bans residents of the UK from accessing websites that portray “non-conventional sexual acts,” bringing it in line with the country’s more stringent limitations around pornography being sold offline in traditional outlets. A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media, and Sports said the aim was to ensure that the same “rules and safeguards” that exist in the physical world were applied online.

Censor bar UK

The guidelines are based on the Obscene Publications Act, which was last amended in 1964. Although there is no definitive list of what constitutes “non-conventional,” there have been many examples of the government asking adult filmmakers to remove scenes from certain works in order to make them compliant.

Jerry Barnett, a free speech campaigner and author, describes the bans as “inexplicable.” Female ejaculation, urination, and menstruation are some of the acts currently prohibited by the British Board of Film Classification. There is also the “four-finger rule,” which limits the number of digits that could be inserted into a given orifice.

The law additionally gives internet service providers the power to block access to websites that are shown to be non-compliant.

Filesharing Now Carries a 10-Year Sentence

Online copyright infringement was also covered by the new act, increasing the maximum prison sentence from two to ten years. Similar to the amendments regarding pornography, the goal was to harmonize the law across both offline and online activities. In this case, the new penalties match those applied to the crime of physical counterfeiting, which was covered by the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act of 1988.

The new wording describes the crime as sharing the copyrighted work to the public for the purposes of monetary reward, or to affect losses with the owner of the work.

A person […] who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public commits an offence if person knows or has reason to believe that person is infringing copyright in the work, and either intends to make a gain for person or another person, or knows or has reason to believe that communicating the work to the public will cause loss to the owner of the copyright, or will expose the owner of the copyright to a risk of loss.

In the months preceding the legislation, the London-based Open Rights Group launched a campaign to dispute the new provisions, explaining that it risks “helping copyright trolls.” Additionally, it criminalizes any copyright infringement where there is a “risk of loss,” which could be broadly interpreted as “anything published online without permission.”

The language does not appear to differentiate between a college student who seeds a torrent file from their dorm room and say, the hackers behind TheDarkOverlord, who were recently reported as having stolen unreleased TV shows from Netflix and other studios.

The government has indicated that they were only interested in prosecuting the latter.

What do you think about this new law? Let us know in the comments below.


Images via Pixabay, Messibation/DeviantArt

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