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Free Expression

We Are Not Amused

The Queen of England today threw the weight of her throne behind a dubious proposal that would potentially suspend a person’s Internet access if the user is found to be a repeat copyright offender; France has already passed its own "three strikes" nuclear option for dealing with online copyright violations. 

During her speech to Parliament today, the Queen announced: "My Government will introduce a Bill to ensure the communications infrastructure is fit for the digital age, supports future economic growth, delivers competitive communications and enhances public service broadcasting." That was her typically understated English way of endorsing the UK’s pending Digital Economy bill

The UK government is on record supporting the idea of cutting off Internet access for repeat offenders. Although this policy of Internet exile for dealing with copyright violation is squarely on the table—and now has royal endorsement—the Brits exhibit at least a bit of Anglo-Saxon angst in proposing the idea: 

"[A]lthough we continue to regard the uptake and use of Internet services as essential to a digital Britain… this step would obviously be a very serious sanction as it would affect all members of a household equally, and might disrupt access to other communications, so it should be regarded as very much a last resort."
Such moves are now framed against the backdrop of a debate that highlights the core principle that Internet access has become essential for the exercise of fundamental human rights.  While the stance that Internet access is now fundamental for the exercise of human right shouldn’t be taken as a universal "Get Out of Jail Free" card allowing Internet users to break the law, proportionality and due process must be key in any policy debate over how to enforce copyright law.
And while the pomp and circumstance of the Queen wading into the "three strikes" debate is a Saturday Night Live sketch begging to be written, the issue is too serious to be laughed off. The next act of this play could be headed our way very soon.