22 February 2010

Three Strikes and You're *Not* Out?

Now this is rum.

A little while back, there was a petition on the 10 Downing site:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to abandon Lord Mandelson’s plans to ban individuals from the internet based on their use of ‘peer to peer’ file sharing.”

I didn't bother signing it because it seemed pretty hopeless in the face of the government's unbending statements on the subject. And now we have the response:

The Government wants as many people as possible to enjoy all the benefits that broadband internet can bring. New technology has changed the way people want to use and access media content, in some cases faster than products and services commercially on offer have developed. We are also clear that the benefits of the internet must include economic benefits for our creative industries and artists. We therefore take extremely seriously the problem of on-line copyright infringement, and have been working closely with rights holders, media companies and internet firms to develop practical solutions to reduce and prevent this.

Yes, yes, yes - *do* get on with it.

There then follows a long, and fairly intelligent commentary on the area and the issues it raises:

We also recognise the need to ensure proper education of consumers, for new attractive legal sources of content as well as a system of notifications. Notifications will play a significant part in that education role, but it is vital that there are attractive legal offers available so that unlawful behaviour is no longer the “default” for many seeking content on-line. Rights holders need business models which work in the new digital environment. That is why we welcomed the announcements such as the Virgin Media and Universal agreement, the development of Spotify and the music offers announced by Vodafone and Sky. These are the types of agreement which will play a critical role in moving the great majority of people away from piracy.

And then, tucked away at the end, there is this:

We will not terminate the accounts of infringers - it is very hard to see how this could be deemed proportionate except in the most extreme – and therefore probably criminal – cases.

We added account suspension to the list of possible technical measures which might be considered if our measures to tackle unlawful file-sharing through notifications and legal action are not as successful as we hope. This is but one of a number of possible options on which we would seek advice from Ofcom – and others – if we decided to consider a third obligation on technical measures. However what is clear is that we would need a rapid and robust route of appeal available to all consumers if we decided technical measures were needed.

"We will not terminate the accounts of infringers": really? Do you think they mean it? Is it a trick? Answers on the back of a CD... (Via ZDNet UK.)

Update: Open Rights Group has a good explanation for what may be going on here: that, as usual, the UK government is simply playing with words, and has no intention of actually listening to reason... (via the Guardian.)

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Anonymous said...

Legislators are always trying to catch up.

David Gerard said...

The trick is that they will "suspend" rather than "disconnect."

Note that this is a distinction without a practical difference.

Cyberdoyle said...

They won't 'terminate' because the contract is with the ISP and you will continue to pay for broadband you can't get, because your account will be 'suspended'. It sounds to me like government spin, and the other debill petition with thousands of votes will probably get a similar smarmy answer. Unless something pretty strong comes up then the dark lords bill will get through and history will tell the tale of how he broke our internet to protect an obsolete business model on the advice of his mates.

Glyn Moody said...

@Cyberdoyle: if - as seems likely - this is just playing with words, the cynicism is extraordinary. The UK government is even more contemptible than I thought...