The Digital Economy Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords, will have serious consequences for hotels providing internet services if it is passed in its present form, warns the British Hospitality Association.
The bill follows the launch in 2009 of the European Data Retention Directive which will force internet service providers (ISPs) to trace and identify the source, destination, type and time of internet communications.
It is aimed at identifying individuals who are infringing copyright by illegally downloading material. The ISP would have to issue a report which would include a description of the apparent infringements, evidence, and information about copyright and its purpose.
While liability rests with the ISPs to identify rooms where an infringement had taken place, hotels would be required to provide guest details and then issue the guest with the copyright report.
The BHA's first concern is that whilst it is relatively easy to identify wired users, wireless users can be significantly more difficult to find and those using a prepaid card will be impossible to identify.
An added complication is that with the copyright infringement notices usually being received two or three days after the alleged incident occurs, it is highly likely that the hotel guest will have checked out by the time the notification is received.
Also, if the broadband connection continues to offend over an as-yet unspecified period of time, then the ISP is obliged to disconnect the user - even though it will be almost impossible for those providing public internet access to identify whether the user is someone who has previously offended or not.
The BHA say that disconnection would endanger a hotel's business and would be a grossly unfair consequence of a guest's action.
"If it is passed in its present form, the difficulties of applying this bill to the hospitality industry, with its transient user profile, appear not to have been considered," says Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the BHA.
"We are making representations to Government to highlight our concerns."
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