Fast: 'Ban them from any internet use'

Summary:John Lovelock, the head of the Federation Against Software Theft, explains why ISPs should ban those accused of illegal file-sharing

...the creative industries in this country contributes £53m to our economy and 2 million jobs — it's not something that is trivial. The theft of IP [intellectual property] is the theft of the livelihood of our future generations. We no longer make cars; we are a service and creative industries economy now, and something has to be done to protect that economy and those jobs.

If you are not saying you want to ban people from the internet completely, then what are you saying?
We're not saying we're not trying to ban people completely. If they are serial file rippers, they are clearly not just people doing it to be mischievous. This is an industry out there and people are using it as a livelihood to rip off people's genuine livelihood.

If we have the evidence, then I do say ban them from any internet use and let them be black sheep. We're not talking about the 14-year-old or the student who makes a couple of copies — we don't have the resources for that — but the serious people. Then we'd be going some way towards protecting an industry that's very important to the economy.

What is your opinion on the recent case in Belgium where a judge ordered an ISP to actively monitor its users' P2P activity?
I'm not sure that is possible. We're not advocating that the ISPs have to monitor what's going across their networks. We're asking them to co-operate with us and ban people from using their networks, and make a register amongst themselves of people where they have been [found out]. If [rights holders] all reported [such activities] to ISPs and they get the same names [recurring] at the top, and you take away the vehicle they're using, then they can't go robbing banks.

What's to stop them reregistering under a false name or using a proxy?
That's a difficult one — I'm not sure about the technology. On some auction sites they have a paying mechanism where users can't provide the wrong information, so they can always track back to bank accounts — although I'm not sure that would work with ISPs.

What about where people are sharing an IP address?
This has not been totally fleshed out. There are questions all the way down the line. Like any legislation, it would have to evolve. We haven't sat down at a roundtable and aired these kinds of views. We're just saying: "What about if you did this?"

If someone was banned without having been found guilty by a court, wouldn't they have a strong argument that their civil liberties were being infringed upon?
How do people in the insurance industry have difficulty getting insurance? Because they are proven to be a bad risk. And, if this person is a risk to your particular business, although they haven't been found guilty, are you wanting to associate with them? Yes, they haven't been found guilty, but evidence shows that they have been using it for illegal activity, civil though it may be.

The same evidence could be used in court and we could get the lawyers together and they would discern that evidence could be held up in court. We don't want to go to court, we don't want to take every single individual that is caught to court, but we want to try and nip it in the bud without having to resort to legislation and court costs.

We don't want to know who the subscriber is. We just want to say: "If we provide enough evidence to the ISP, will you take action against these people? We don't want you to divulge personal details, because the Data Protection Act says you can't do that anyway without a court order. We want you to take action and deny them the use of your networks and then they have no business left." We're never going to eliminate it, only chip away at it.

What is your opinion on the tactics used by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which has become, some would say, notorious for going after individuals to make examples of them?
I couldn't comment at all — what goes on in American law is totally different to what happens here. Fast is inward-facing and all we want to do is what is right for our members and the economy.

Does Fast have any quantifiable data on the damage inflicted on the UK software industry by unauthorised file-sharing?
I don't think we separate it in terms of whether it takes place over the internet or in business, but the loss is around £1bn per annum just in the UK because of people not paying for the software they are using. In terms of the IP industry in general… the loss is £9bn per annum.

But does that take into account the fact that some people who illegally download material might not otherwise buy it anyway?
There is no empirical evidence that says that, because they've downloaded, they would have bought the original. That's a very difficult question to answer.

Topics: Networking


David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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