The BPI's grand waste of paper

Now that I've written my straight news story on the BPI's imminent scare campaign against illegal filesharing, I thought I'd vent my spleen on the subject.What's going to happen is that hundreds of thousands of letters will be sent out, threatening...

Now that I've written my straight news story on the BPI's imminent scare campaign against illegal filesharing, I thought I'd vent my spleen on the subject.

What's going to happen is that hundreds of thousands of letters will be sent out, threatening... not much, actually. All the letters will do is annoy people, many of whom will be innocent of the allegations being made against them.

For example, I live in a shared house. My housemate is the account holder on our broadband connection (the non-signatory Be Broadband). Let's say that Be was a signatory, and another of the housemates downloaded or uploaded an album using P2P - account holder housemate would get a letter accusing him of filesharing, despite his innocence. And then, according to the BPI, account holder housemate is supposed to make sure none of the other housemates fileshare. How, exactly?

Or let's say you have a Wi-Fi router using WEP encryption (I know that if you're reading this you're unlikely to be daft enough to rely on WEP, but let's think about the non-techie majority). A neighbour - you don't know who - hacks in and fileshares. And you get a stinky letter. It makes you angry, no?

Other signs that this whole thing has been rather poorly thought out include the following exchange between me and a BPI PR bod today:

Me: So what exactly are the letters going to threaten?

BPI guy: I don't think anyone's going to be threatened. Actually, can I withdraw that? I don't know whats going to be in the letter yet.

Also, tellingly:

BPI guy: The letter doesn't basically say 'we're going to cut you off'. That's not something the ISPs are necessarily minded to say.

So much for 'three strikes', then.

And how about BPI chief Geoff Taylor's pronouncement that "this MOU represents a significant step forward, in that all ISPs now recognise their responsibility to help deal with illegal filesharing"?

Me: That's just not true. Only six ISPs have signed the MOU.

BPI guy: That is perhaps a technical error on our part... we made a genuine mistake there.

Uh-huh. I also asked BPI guy whether customers of an MOU signatory might not just switch to another, smaller provider that had resisted. "That's not a concern from our point of view," he said.

This whole campaign is nothing more than a PR offensive to try scare the public into changing its ways. It's only going to create a massive amount of ill will towards the content industry and the ISPs. It's toothless without new legislation, and even that is a more-than-tricky proposition given the whole burden of proof issue, along with the numerous techie tricks for bypassing filters.

If ISPs do eventually agree to disconnect filesharers, those customers will simply go elsewhere. This stick really isn't going to work. Let's hope the music industry is serious about the carrot - new, saner business models that will reward rather than punish the consumer. Let's have some of those, then.

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