Digital Economy Act 2017 to encourage digital culture

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The digital economy of UK is growing at a fast rate and is transforming every aspect of lives. To remain a leader of digital economy, UK has introduced Digital Economy Act (DEA) 2017. 


The Act empowers citizens and businesses in following ways:

  • To provide better connectivity so that everyone has access to broadband wherever one lives.
  • To build a better infrastructure fit for digital infrastructure.
  • To enable better public services using digital technologies.
  • To provide important protections for citizens from spam email and nuisance calls 
  • To protect children from internet pornography by introducing mandatory age verification
  • To crackdown on copyright violations strongly.

“The benefits are not only for the consumers but also for ISPs.”

A major component of 2017 Digital Economy Act is overhaul of telecommunication infrastructure. There’s a requirement for meeting universal service obligation (USO) of 10 Mbps. The Act further intends to bring more transparency by allowing publication of data and information in the customer’s interest. With the availability of data, government believes there will be proliferation of innovative apps and consumer tools. Since bandwidth is becoming a basic need, Telecom companies will have to abide by stringent SOPs and Customer Service Rules such as consumer switching to different provider, compliance with spectrum licence etc.


Telecom provides would enjoy similar rights as those for utility providers when it comes to acquisition of land. The new code shall reduce the freedom of landowners to charge premium prices for the use of their property by telecom companies.


Another important component is the regulation pertaining to age verification controls for adult websites. From the day, Act goes live, adult sites accessible from UK will be required to verify age for their visitors before displaying pornographic content. Sites are free to use age verification method – their own or a third party software. Having a common method of age verification will allow user to move from one site to another without re-verification. In case a third party mechanism is used, the platform cannot store any age verification data and third party has to anonymise this data. 


In case of violation, the regulator can block sites at ISP level, request social media accounts removed, and ask payment processor to stop processing their payments. The regulation is applicable whenever a direct or indirect commercial intent is identified with the publication of adult content.


The copyright regulation has been made more stringent with sentencing up to 10 years. Offences where people could be jailed for 10 years in case of copyright infringement or without the license from the copyright owner:

  • Making a sale or hire
  • Importing into the UK other than for one’s private and domestic use.
  • Distributing at work
  • Distributing other than at work, to an extent of prejudice to the copyright owner.

 A person can be made liable only when following condition is met:

  • To have knowledge of his/ her copyright infringement
  • Knowledge about causing loss to copyright owner. 


Other features that the Act brings into force are:

  1. Include e-books in the public lending rights
  2. A direct marketing code to be introduced by Information Commissioner at the top of hierarchy of industry codes.
  3. Criminalization of use of ‘bots’ to obtain event tickets 

Further Readings

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