New amendments to the Digital Economy Bill are likely to see increased measures taken in action against ticket touts, with Parliament looking to punish internet service providers (ISPs) and shopping websites like eBay should they fail to make significant efforts to stop their services from being used by touts. The Bill, first read in the House of Commons in July last year, is now at the committee stage of the House of Lords, where amendments will be debated today.The proposed 233D amendment targets "services for online electronic communication" or "storage", compelling them to stop their users from breaching rules around the reselling of tickets. Not only covering ISPs and telecoms companies, the Bill has the capacity to fine VPN companies and the likes of DropBox, YouTube and similar sites should they fail to restrict the actions of users found to be contravening ticketing laws for sports, music and other events.Looking closely at the ‘broad’ wording of the bill, technology lawyer Neil Brown suggested that the punishments outlined in the plans extend beyond “just commercial websites or office Internet connections”, and could also affect home broadband connections. "If an online electronic communication or hosting service is used ‘in connection with' a breach of the ticketing rules, and the service provider becomes aware of it, the provider can face criminal sanctions if they don't stop the service as soon as reasonably possible.”However, while the current contents of the bill and Brown’s quotes are sure to get the attention of illegal touts and legal resellers operating in the UK, we believe the reality is likely to be different. Although the aims of the amendments are well intentioned and outline the correct direction of travel for the secondary ticket market, touts are likely to change their practices to avoid technical detection and make this form of legislation unwieldy and potential unenforceable.Nevertheless, the bill follows in the footsteps of the Investigatory Powers Act, which last year made the Royal Ascent to give UK intelligence agencies a range of powers with regard to internet surveillance, also requiring communication service providers to keep records on UK internet users for a full year.In combination with this latest Digital Economy Bill, the legislation indicates attempts by the government to increase the pressure on ISPs to counter misuse of services or content provisions, including breaches of ticketing laws. Other provisions of the Digital Economy Bill relate to restrictions on pornography, minimum internet download speeds, Ofcom powers and copyright infringement punishments.
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