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How the Digital Economy Act will affect your business

Now that the Digital Economy Bill has been passed through parliament, we take a look at how it could affect you and your business.

If a hacker or even clued up neighbour wants to get into your connection it wouldn't take much effort, so it is important you make sure you regularly monitor the traffic and take note of any unusual activity as if somebody uses your connection to illegally fileshare, it could be you footing the bill.

Responsibility for employees

It may not be those from the outside hacking in, but instead those on the inside using a connection to download illegal material.

As a landlord would be responsible for any fines if someone was to use his/her Wi-Fi connection illegally while in the pub, an employer paying for a connection would also be liable if one of his/her employees used it illegally too.

Andrew Heaney, executive director of strategy and regulation at TalkTalk has been an outspoken critic against the bill on behalf of the ISP and its consumer customers. He warns business customers could face even bigger problems.

"The business will be responsible for the actions of their employees, visitors etc who use their networks," he told IT PRO. "The risk is higher since there more potential users [on their networks]."

Unlike consumers, Heaney pointed out businesses should have more resources available to address security and we encourage every business to do that.

So long internet connection

The point is that the Act allows for more than just a slap on the wrist for anybody caught committing copyright infringement.

First off will come the letters, letting you know you - or an employee or hacker - has been caught in the act and warning you not to do it again. After three of these letters, you could be hit with a massive fine or even have your internet connection cut off.

We don't need to tell you how badly your business would be affected by having no internet running into the office and we guess with the current economic climate as it is, a fine wouldn't be too welcome either.

Website blocking

Something else that may affect businesses is the revised clause 18 now clause 8 which will allow the blocking of websites if they hold copyrighted material illegally.

Now you may think it's no problem if they block the likes of Pirate Bay, but there are concerns from large internet companies that the act could go as far as blocking search engines.

Even Google has come out against the clause, saying last week in a statement: "We absolutely believe in the importance of copyright, but blocking through injunction creates a high risk that legal content gets mistakenly blocked, or that people abuse the system."

We may not expect the likes of Salesforce.com to get blocked but with the increased use of online services to perform business critical applications, as well as the usual day to day usage of sites for communication and research, this could really affect businesses in the UK.

With great internet comes a great responsibility

The Digital Economy Act may help ensure much better internet connections across the UK and lay the foundations for superfast broadband as we go further into the 21st Century.

However, as these internet connections become more imperative to business operations, the technology is there to abuse them and now the law is also there to cut them off.

Businesses need to be aware of the new laws and enjoy the benefits, but also be aware of and prepared for the risks that could lie ahead.

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