How ‘Lord’ Mandelson seeks to kill open Wi-Fi networks

Terrific Guardian piece by Lilian Edwards, who teaches Internet law at Sheffield.

A lot of people have talked to me over the last week about Wi-Fi (open and closed, i.e. password-protected) and the Digital Economy bill. The more I try to find answers, the more ludicrous it becomes. For instance, last week it turned out that a pub owner was allegedly fined £8,000 because someone downloaded copyright material over their open Wi-Fi system. Would that get worse or better if the Digital Economy bill passes in its present form?

To illustrate, I’m going to pick my favourite example of a potentially worried wireless network provider: my mum.

She doesn’t understand or like the internet, refuses to even think about securing her Wi-Fi network. What is her legal status? What will she say if/when she receives warnings under the Digital Economy bill because someone has used her open Wi-Fi to download infringing files?

It’s a terrific, thought-provoking, scary piece worth reading in full. The scary bit is the realisation that Mandelson & Co are the epitome of clueless legislators. Viewing Mandy’s approach to the Net is like watching a monkey fiddling with a delicate chronometer. I’m writing a book at the moment about the significance of the Net and one of the draft chapter headings is “We could blow it, if we’re not careful”. I’m beginning to think that’s much too conditional.