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What is the Digital Economy Act (DEA) 2010 and the impact it has had?

Photo: UK Parliament. Flickr


The Digital Economy Act (DEA) 2010 came about to allow the Office of Communications (Ofcom) access to find out the individuals who are downloading illegal content ,file sharing, and to stop the copyright infringement in the United Kingdom. The impact in which the act has had on society and the media industry, specifically the ways that the population can stream online as well.

History/ Background

The Digital Economy Act 2010 is an act of parliament in the United Kingdom and was Introduced on April 8th 2010 and implements aspects of Government policy on digital media set out in the “‘Digital Britain’ White Paper report” (Mandelson and Bradshaw, 2009) published on June 2009. The act came into power to allow Ofcom the right to make provisions about the online infringement of copyright and about penalties for infringement of copyright and performers rights. As well as making provisions for internet domain registries, the functions of Channel Four Television Corporation, regulation of television and radio services, regulation, about the use of the “electromagnetic spectrum, amend the Video Recordings Act 1984, public lending tight in relation to the electromagnetic spectrum and for connected purposes” (Digital Economy Act, 2010) .

The background of the DEA 2010 specifies the implementation of its copyright enforcement measure in two stages; Stage 1 is the ‘Three Strikes’ for those who are believed to be sharing unauthorised copies of music, television shows, and movies and to send letters to the matching IP addresses and stage 2 is if the secretary of state believes, after a year or more, that the amount of online copyright infringement is not decreasing as intended.

Subscribers will be subject to technical measures ranging from slowed-down internet access to complete disconnection (Open Rights Group – Digital Economy Act).

A significant technical difficulty is that the identification of internet users is shaky: rights holders rely on the numbered identifier known as an ‘IP Address’ that have access to the internet (Open Rights Group – Digital Economy Act) and the fact that they have access to the content in which individuals look at online through their history.

The policies underlying the DEA were published as the Digital Britain report in 2009, which recommended against technical measure to block copyright infringement such as “three strikes” and website blocking. The “Three strikes” disconnection provisions were included in the final bill. Clauses introducing website blocking for copyright infringement were added. Fewer than one-tenth of MPs voted the DEA into law. Once in power, the coalition government dropped the website blocking clauses after Ofcom reported they were unworkable but,  website blocking remains legally possible under the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988.

The DEA was passed in two hours during this period, known as the “wash-up” when unopposed legislation is passed quickly before Parliament is dissolved (Open Rights Group – Digital Economy Act).


BT and TalkTalk had requested a judicial review as they had found that the DEA disproportionately conflicted with internet users’ basic rights and freedoms under EU law, in which they argued. It was insufficiently scrutinised in Parliament before its hasty passage, and

that ISPs should not have to bear the costs of enforcement and the Judicial review found in favor of the government in which their attempt had failed on but one ground, the costs (Mansell and Steinmueller, 2011).

The accounts on inconsistency in the act are the provisions 0f the DEA 2010 amounted to a disproportionate restriction on the free movement of services, right to privacy, right to free expression, or to import and receive information, therefore breaching the directives with respect to electronic commerce, data protection and privacy.


The DEA 2010 allowing Ofcom to have access to individuals IP addresses to see their history goes against the human rights of this country. Especially article 8 which is the right to respect for ones private and family life. Also, article 10 which is also the freedom of expression as argued by BT and TalkTalk in the judicial review

that the DEA disproportionately conflicted with internet users’ basic rights and freedoms under EU law (Human rights act, Schedules, 1998).

ORG believes that freedom of expression, creativity, and innovation are important goals, but that aggressive enforcement of today’s outdated and inflexible copyright laws, like the measures included in the DEA, undermine our privacy and freedom of expression and shut off the economic benefits of innovative uses of new technology.

From the legislation the government want to put in place to stop file sharing, it is jeopardising our right to freedom of expression if been denied access to the internet.


The DEA Bill is known as controversial as it is but, Why is it? Because it allows the regulator, Ofcom, to view your internet history. There are also concerns about how the file-sharing measures could affect public Wi-Fi services. Specifically, people are concerned that the owner of a connection could be held liable even if they are not personally responsible for downloading pirated material. Universities and Libraries are the main ones concerned about this aspect. Other reasons for the controversial issues are due to the laws have not received enough debate and have been rushed through parliament and the concerns in which innocent people could be caught out by the legislation if their net connections are hijacked by pirates.

Companies such as Google have expressed concerns about the plans to block websites, which it says could result in legitimate content being blocked. Whereas,

ISPs have also long said they do not want to become the internet police, and have also pointed out that they are mere conduits of the traffic on the net, such as BT and TalkTalk, (BBC, 2010).

Impact on Society

The impact in which it will have on society is the fact that members of the public are being threatened by legal action about illegal file-sharing and they will be more enticed to use mediums such as Spotify, iPlayer and/ or Netflix.

The other impact it will have on society is the fact that if the law is passed,  it will have an effect on individuals human rights.

Impact on the Media Industry

Majority of people have and use mobile devices more than TVs and The internet is becoming a new means of distribution of content for media companies (Digital Britain – The challenges for media and communications)

In result to this companies are learning to adapt to file-sharing, by making their films, TV shows and music available online quickly, when viewers want to watch them.

Would the music industry be more profitable?, they wouldn’t, as this will have a result, in a loss of money for the music industry due to online streaming is cheaper. For example, the music, television, film industry will stop making money because the law will drive people to use online streaming services such as Spotify, iPlayer and Netflix. Reason being is it works out cheaper for individuals as the majority of albums on the AppStore for instance, costs £9.99, and on Spotify it costs the same price for 24 Million songs for the price of a singular album.
The music industry will be loosing more and more money if the new law is passed as they won’t have nothing to do on online streaming as services like Spotify and Netflix are much cheaper and good value for money.

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