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Proposed UK piracy laws called Draconian, unreasonable

The United Kingdom is proposing legislation that critics say would spell doom for libraries, cafes and other small business owners who provide Wi-Fito their customers, apart from entirely blocking all file sharing sites such as YouSendIt, and imposing life-long Internet bans on the families of repeat offenders.

The proposed Digital Economy Bill would make Internet Service Providers proactively responsible for what users download, effectively forcing them to monitor their networks for piracy and report any offenses to authorities. The definition also covers any business providing Internet access to others, which covers all open Wi-Fihotspots. Unless owners install complex monitoring systems and proactively block users from downloading content, they could be fined and have their licenses revoked.

Ordinary home users could be penalized up to £50,000 for downloading copyrighted files, with a threshold set at 50 violations. But the most controversial clause so far has been one that grants the government permission to entirely block any website accused of hosting copyrighted content. This would almost certainly lead to private file-sharing sites such as YouSendIt, RapidShare and potentially even webmail providers, since their contents cannot be examined or regulated by the sites' owners.