Age Ratings, Anti-Piracy Subject of UK Digital Economy Bill

A few details regarding Britain’s Digital Economy Bill were touched on this morning as part of the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, in which the monarch outlines the coming legislative agenda.

Among the forthcoming actions will be a mandatory age rating on all videogames aimed at children ages 12 and above, reports the Guardian. The Bill calls for the adoption of the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) system as the method of classifying games in the UK, replacing the current practice of using both PEGI and British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) ratings.

The Digital Economy Bill would also tackle piracy, proposing a tough policy much like France’s three-strike Hadopi Law. Those caught committing piracy will receive a warning letter, followed by a second, more stern letter that will caution the user that “technical measures” could be implemented in order to stop them from stealing files.

Failing the second warning, a pirate would be placed on a “serious infringers list” which would allow ISPs to disconnect them from the Internet. Those about to be disconnected will have 20 days to appeal their case before an independent body. They will also be able to appeal the case if they lose, again within 20 days. The Guardian has a flow chart that illustrates the full process (PDF).

First Secretary Lord Mandelson does not expect widespread disconnections as a result of the pending legislation:

Technical measures will be a last resort and I have no expectation of mass suspensions resulting. The British government’s view is that taking people’s work without due payment is wrong and that, as an economy based on creativity, we cannot sit back and do nothing as this happens.

The government hopes to cut piracy by 70% before April 2011.

The Open Rights Group believes the proposed disconnect laws to be illegal, adding that “Evidence cannot show who may have infringed copyright, only what connection was used.” They urge people to contact their MP to oppose “these draconian proposals.”

The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) applauded the outline of the Bill, stating:

ELSPA believes the proposed UK adoption of the Pan-European Games Information (PEGI) classification system to be an important step in ensuring child safety when gaming. The video games industry offers its full support to the Government in this.

On the other side of the fence, while noting that the Digital Britain report was announced with “grand ambition,” the Guardian calls the Digital Economy Bill “more plumbing than poetry, in many places little more than a series of disconnected tweaks to existing legislation.”

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