Government gets tough on pirates after Mandy dines with Geffen

happygeek

I'm not a great fan of the phrase 'total coincidence' and nor am I a fan of The Rt Hon Lord Mandelson, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills and Lord President of the Council to be formal.

While I'm on the small matter of things I don't like, I'm not exactly standing cheering on the sidelines when a recording or movie industry executive bemoans modern technology for stripping them of some of their profit from the sale of music or film.

So you can probably guess I was none too pleased to learn that the UK Government has done something of a 180 degree about turn of thinking when it comes to dealing with entertainment industry piracy on the Internet. The proposed draconian new powers include forcing Internet Service Providers to suspend or block the accounts of persistent downloaders. Oddly enough, this exact same suggestion was rejected just a couple of months ago in the much awaited Digital Britain report, which was published by none other than the UK Government itself.

Of course, the turnaround could have nothing to do with Peter Mandelson having dinner with David Geffen, a well known Hollywood media mogul, at a villa in Corfu belong to Nat Rothschild could it? Absolutely not, according to a Government spokesperson who said "I believe they had dinner, but they absolutely didn't discuss any peer-to-peer file-sharing."

Believe what you will, but understand this: many Internet Service Providers are not happy. One major ISP, TalkTalk, has gone on record to state "Introducing measures such as disconnection at the instigation of the Secretary of State will sidestep proper scrutiny, likely breach fundamental human rights and result in innocent people being disconnected or, worse, prosecuted" adding "What’s more, they will not work" and concluding that the plans would be strongly resisted. Even the Internet Services Providers' Association has said that it was disappointed by the announcement regarding disconnection which it considered to be "a disproportionate response."

Here's what the Government has to say about ISP account suspension:

"The original proposal lists six technical measures that Ofcom might require ISPs to impose on repeat infringers. Since the issue of the consultation some stakeholders have argued strongly that none of those technical measures is powerful enough to have a significant deterrent effect on infringing behaviour. Also we cannot know how P2P technology might develop in the short to medium term, and we want to ensure that Ofcom has a full tool-kit from which to select the most appropriate measure should technical measures be deemed necessary. Taking those points into account, although we continue to regard the uptake and use of Internet services as essential to a digital Britain, we are considering the case for adding suspension of accounts into the list of measures that could be imposed. This does not necessarily mean that suspension would be used - this step would obviously be a very serious sanction as it would affect all members of a household equally, and might disrupt access to other communications, so it should be regarded as very much a last resort. Accordingly a thorough examination of the proportionality and effectiveness of the measure (as with any of the other measures) would have to be undertaken before ISPs would be required to implement it, even if the decision to move to technical measures is taken. As ever we would need to ensure any such measure fully complied with both UK and EU legislation."

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About the Author

A freelance technology journalist for 30 years, I have been a Contributing Editor at PC Pro (one of the best selling computer magazines in the UK) for most of them. As well as currently contributing to Forbes.com, The Times and Sunday Times via Raconteur Special Reports, SC Magazine UK, Digital Health, IT Pro and Infosecurity Magazine, I am also something of a prolific author. My last book, Being Virtual: Who You Really are Online, which was published in 2008 as part of the Science Museum TechKnow Series by John Wiley & Sons. I am also the only three times winner (2006, 2008, 2010) of the BT Information Security Journalist of the Year title, and was humbled to be presented with the ‘Enigma Award’ for a ‘lifetime contribution to information security journalism’ in 2011 despite my life being far from over...

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