Backstory: the government issued their Digital Britain report earlier this year. They started a consultation on P2P filesharing and what measures should be taken to stop it, with the consultation ending on the 16th September.
Here’s the consultation page (as of 6am 25-Aug):
Consultation on Legislation to Address Illicit P2P File-Sharing
Starting Date: 16-06-09
Closing Date: 15-09-09
This consultation sets out the Government’s legislative approach for addressing the problem of illicit use of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing technology to exchange unlawful copies of copyright material.
But now, in the middle of the consultation, they’ve changed their mind; there will be an announcement today at 9am. According to the Guardian:
People who persist in swapping copyrighted films and music will have their internet connections cut off under tough new laws to be proposed by the government today.
The measures also include taking the power to target illegal downloaders away from regulator Ofcom and giving it to ministers to speed up the process.
The decision to cut off peer-to-peer filesharers is unexpected since it was ruled out by the government’s own Digital Britain report in June as going too far.
In the report, the then communications minister Lord Carter said illegal filesharers should receive letters warning them their activities could leave them open to prosecution. If that failed to reduce piracy by at least 70%, Ofcom would have the power to call on internet companies such as BT to introduce so-called “technical measures” to combat piracy. The most draconian of these measures was to slow down a persistent filesharer’s broadband connection, but it would not appear until 2012.
But today the government will take the unusual step of proposing much stricter rules midway through the Digital Britain consultation process. Illegal filesharers will still get warning letters but if they continue to swap copyrighted material they could have their internet connection temporarily severed.
So why the change? Maybe it has something to do with Peter Mandelson’s recent meeting with David Geffen:
Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, ordered officials to draw up draconian regulations on internet piracy just days after he had a private dinner with a Hollywood mogul who is a critic of illegal file-sharing.
Mandelson is understood to have demanded that internet service providers be given new powers to cut off the accounts of British web users who persistently download music and films for nothing.
The business secretary’s intervention comes after a meeting last weekend with David Geffen, the billionaire producer who co-founded the DreamWorks studio with Steven Spielberg.
Mandelson and Geffen dined on August 7 with members of the Rothschild banking dynasty at the family’s holiday villa on the Greek island of Corfu.
I wonder how big a bribe donation Geffen offered to secure the legislative changes he wanted? It must be quite a lot for Labour to risk pissing off 7 million downloaders just before the general election. As commenter Christovir put it:
I ever cease to be amazed at how persistent Labour is at choosing policies that are both unworkable and unpopular. Truly impressive.
If Labour had any sense, what they would do is scrap this unworkable and unpopular plan, and instead put Tom Watson in charge of Digital Britain. I don’t agree with everything Watson says, but he basically gets it, unlike Mandelson.