The RIAA has been pressuring the UK government (and other governments throughout the world) to introduce “3 strikes” laws that would disconnect people from the Internet, after 2 warnings, if they are accused of illegal P2P filesharing.
However the British government has now ruled out 3 strikes:
Internet service providers will not be forced to disconnect users who repeatedly flout the law by illegally sharing music and video files, The Times has learnt.
David Lammy, the Intellectual Property Minister, said that the Government had ruled out legislating to force ISPs to disconnect such users.
Speaking ahead of the publication of a report on the future of Britain’s digital industries, Mr Lammy said that there were very complex legal issues wrapped up in enforced disconnection. He added: “I’m not sure it’s actually going to be possible.”
Indeed Lammy thinks that file sharing is a relatively minor problem, like stealing a bar of soap when you check out of a hotel:
Mr Lammy, who has begun a big consultation entitled Developing a Copyright Agenda for the 21st Century, said that there was a big difference between organised counterfeiting gangs and “younger people not quite buying into the system”. He said: “We can’t have a system where we’re talking about arresting teenagers in their bedrooms. People can rent a room in an hotel and leave with a bar of soap – there’s a big difference between leaving with a bar of soap and leaving with the television.”
He said he hoped the memorandum of understanding would mean that the Government did not have to apply “the heavy hand of legislation”.
The music industry is predictably not happy with the soap analogy:
Music industry figures said they were disappointed by Mr Lammy’s comments. One senior figure said: “The relative cost of stealing a bar of soap from an hotel might be small, but if it came to seven million people nicking the soap each year, which is what we have in the music industry, I’m sure that hotel chain would do something about it.”
It appears that Lammy is actually quite clueful and appears to realise that disconnecting millions of people from the net for filesharing is a total non-starter legally, politically, economically and technically:
- Legally: How do you tell who is a filesharer? What level of evidence do you require? — if it is merely on the music industry’s say-so, that’s unjust. If someone is cut off, won’t that punish everyone who lives in that household? What’s to stop them simply signing up for another ISP — and if you prevent that you’re going to have to have a big long list of people who’re banned and an enormous problem with false positives and people moving house.
- Politically: Pissing off millions of voters just before a general election is unlikely to improve the government’s chances in that election.
- Economically: The internet is now a vital part of the country’s economy. Cutting off large numbers of people would seriously harm the economy.
- Technically: If 3 strikes was implemented, geeks would invent new protocols that are undetectable, and filesharers would all migrate to them.
There a quite a lot of vested interests being hurt by the Internet now, and if they had seen it coming would no doubt have tried to strangle it 15 years ago. But they didn’t see it coming, because they are ignorant and clueless about technology; indeed the music industry’s response to the challenge of the Internet has been a mixture of cluelessness, arrogance, and malice.
So if 3 strikes isn’t the solution, what is? It appears the government might favour a compulsory levy on broadband users, which I’ll talk about in a future post.