Digital Economy Bill 2016–17

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Digital Economy Bill 2016
Long title A bill to make provision about electronic communications infrastructure and services; to provide for restricting access to online pornography; to make provision about protection of intellectual property in connection with electronic communications; to make provision about data-sharing; to make provision about functions of OFCOM in relation to the BBC; to provide for determination by the BBC of age-related TV licence fee concessions; to make provision about the regulation of direct marketing; to make other provision about OFCOM and its functions; and for connected purposes.
Introduced by John Whittingdale
Territorial extent England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
Other legislation
Relates to Digital Economy Act 2010
Status: Not yet in force
Text of statute as originally enacted

The Digital Economy Bill 2016–17 is a bill of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is substantially different from, and shorter than, the Digital Economy Act 2010, whose provisions largely ended up not being passed into law. The bill addresses policy issues related to electronic communications infrastructure and services, and updates the conditions for and sentencing of criminal copyright infringement. It was introduced to Parliament by culture secretary John Whittingdale on 5 July 2016. Whittingdale was replaced as culture secretary by Karen Bradley on 14 July 2016.[1]


The provisions of the Bill include:[2]

  • Allowing Ofcom, the communications sector's regulator, to financially penalise communications providers for failing to comply with licence commitments.
  • Creating an age-verification regulator to publish guidelines about how pornographic websites should ensure their users are aged 18 or older. The regulated should also be able to fine those which fail to comply.
  • Creating a legal right to minimum Internet download speeds for consumers.
  • Requiring Internet service providers to provide compensation to consumers if service requirements are not met.
  • Allowing English and Welsh courts added sentencing options for Internet copyright infringement.
  • Providing for increased penalties for nuisance calls.
  • Giving Ofcom oversight of the BBC.


The Government expects the bill to complete its passage through the House of Commons during the Autumn 2016. It will then move to the House of Lords. The Government aims to achieve Royal Assent by the end of Spring 2017.[3]


The Open Rights Group have raised concerns over aspects of the bill. The provisions for the age verification of pornographic website users caused concern regarding the privacy of collected user data and the possible ineffectiveness of a method focussed on restricting payments. The proposals for bulk data sharing raised concerns over the risk of misuse.[4] The provisions regarding copyright infringements were criticised for the vagueness of the definition and the severity of the maximum sentence (10 years in prison). BILETA, the British and Irish Law, Education and Technology Association, also criticised the proposal to increase maximum jail term in its submission to the Government's consultation. The proposal was described as 'unacceptable', 'unaffordable', and 'infeasible'.[5][6][7][8]

Academic analysis and reference sources[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Digital Economy Bill 2016-17". UK Parliament. Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  2. ^ "Digital Economy Bill: Networks and porn sites face fines". BBC News. 6 July 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  3. ^ Mark Jackson (5 July 2016). "New UK Digital Economy Bill Details Broadband USO and Internet Changes". ISP review. Retrieved 31 August 2016. 
  4. ^ "Digital Economy Bill: Briefing To The House Of Commons On Second Reading". Open Rights Group. 12 September 2016. Retrieved 27 September 2016. 
  5. ^ "Legal scholars warn against 10 year prison for online pirates". TorrentFreak. 15 August 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2016. 
  6. ^ "10-year jail sentence for online piracy 'infeasible, unaffordable' say academics". Arstechnica. 17 August 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2016. 
  7. ^ "You CAN'T jail online pirates for 10 years, legal eagles tell UK govt". The Register. 18 August 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2016. 
  8. ^ "UK ploughs ahead with plan for 10-year jail term for online file sharing". Arstechnica. 22 April 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2016.