Gov't proposes disconnecting file-sharers

Gov't proposes disconnecting file-sharers

Summary: Internet users suspected of illicit file-sharing could be disconnected under proposals by Lord Mandelson's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

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The government has introduced proposals that would see internet users disconnected from their internet connection if they are suspected of illegal file-sharing.

The proposals were announced on Tuesday by Lord Mandelson's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). They arrive in the middle of the department's own public consultation on legislation on the misuse of peer-to-peer (P2P) technology, which is scheduled to end in September.

"Our thinking on the process supporting the objectives and the obligations [of the consultation] has developed, and we thought it would be helpful to share these thoughts with stakeholders at this point, so that they can take them into account when responding to the consultation," the government said in a statement.

The new proposals make two major additions to the plans under consideration by the ongoing consultation.

The first proposal is a sanction against illegal file-sharers, which calls on the ISP to suspend the suspected subscriber's account. Lord Carter discounted this measure as unnecessarily harsh in his Digital Britain report, which kicked off the P2P consultation in June. However, the government now says it is "considering the case for adding suspension of accounts into the list of measures that could be imposed".

The second proposal  addresses the amount of time it will take for the ISP industry to start cracking down on file-sharers. The original consultation set out a year-long trial of a scheme under which ISPs send letters to suspected file-sharers, asking them to stop their activities. At the end of the trial, if at least 70 percent of these people had not complied, technical measures would be introduced.

Referring to the year-long trial, the government on Tuesday said "the previous proposals, whilst robust, would take an unacceptable amount of time to complete in a situation that calls for urgent action".

A spokesperson for BIS said responses to its consultation indicated that "rights holders, ISPs and consumer groups" are among the many respondents that had found the trial period to be unacceptable.

However, the ISP Association (ISPA) said in a statement it was "concerned that amendments have been proposed without consultation with the internet industry and that the decision was made to publish changes to the consultation before stakeholders had been given the opportunity to respond".

The ISPA added that it "intends to raise these concerns with the government and is currently considering the appropriate action".

BIS's spokesperson denied that the government was pre-empting the results of the department's consultation, which was initially scheduled to end on 15 September but has now been extended to 29 September to allow for response to the new proposals.

The government is bringing out new proposals because it wants "those who didn't think of these ideas" to have a chance to consider them before they submit a response to the consultation, the BIS spokesperson said.

In the Digital Britain report, Lord Carter put forward a variety of technical measures, such as bandwidth throttling and protocol blocking, that could be used to address piracy. In its statement on Tuesday, the government said that "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".

Asked to identify the stakeholders in question, the BIS spokesperson said it was "safe to assume they would be rights-holders".

The government acknowledged the need to make sure innocent individuals, such as those sharing an internet connection with suspected copyright infringers, were not affected by any technical sanctions. If the disconnection measures were introduced, for example, "it would be important to ensure as far as possible that innocent people... would retain access to the internet services they need, including online public services", BIS said in its statement.

Asked how this could be done, BIS's spokesperson declined to give details, but said the government "wouldn't put something in the statement unless we knew it was possible".

The government also said it wanted to make accommodation for any developments in P2P, such as when one file-sharing site is closed down and another automatically replaces it. "We cannot know how P2P technology might develop in the short- to medium-term, and we want to ensure that [the regulator] Ofcom has a full toolkit from which to select the most appropriate measure should technical measures be deemed necessary," BIS said in its statement.

"It's very possible the technology will change again," the BIS spokesperson said.

Topics: Government UK, Networking

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • Well then...

    ""The government acknowledged the need to make sure innocent individuals, such as those sharing an internet connection with suspected copyright infringers, were not affected by any technical sanctions. If the disconnection measures were introduced, for example, "it would be important to ensure as far as possible that innocent people... would retain access to the internet services they need, including online public services", BIS said in its statement.

    Asked how this could be done, BIS's spokesperson declined to give details, but said the government "wouldn't put something in the statement unless we knew it was possible".""

    yeah yeah.

    How about both the consumer groups and the government try dropping there ridicules prices and tax levels.
    CA-aba1d
  • The Elephant In The Room

    ... is, of course, that actual financial loss to the industry from file sharing is negligible. Groups such as the RIAA and MPAA count each and every download as a 'loss', which is as utterly disingenuous as it is possible to be.

    Truth is there's no real way of measuring actual loss to copyright holders, but it's obviously a small percentage of the value they tote around the courts when suing the ass off all and sundry.

    This is why. Financial loss is when a download is made instead of a sale. This is key; the proportion of downloaders who actually would have bought a given product were it NOT available for download is small. Most downloads are made by people who couldn't have afforded to make the purchase, or who weren't sufficiently interested in shelling out at the retail price.

    The fallacy in the studios' arguments is that they compare such downloads to theft; they would counter my argument by pointing out that shoplifters also often can't afford the things they steal, so how can downloading be any different? Well, the difference is obvious; a shiplifter physically reduces the shop's assets, denies the sale that could have taken place. This is fundamentally different from a download, UNLESS the downloader would actually have paid hard cash for the item in a shop if it had not been available for download. And as I have said, this is a minority of downloaders.

    True cinefiles and audiophiles, I would argue, would normally wish to buy the actual product. Though of course, if they can't afford to pay the ridiculously high fees, then they will turn to P2P. But the key point is that in MOST cases, there is no actual loss to the industry as THE SALE WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED even if there were no such thing as P2P.

    But the industry cannot ever acknowledge this argument, even if they know it is right. To admit that there exists even one download where the person wouldn't have bought the product had P2P never existed weakens their case and muddies the waters, and so it is forever the elephant in the room that cannot be mentioned.
    The Blitterbug
  • Another Nightmare...

    This country is getting like the USSR was in the 60's/70's... Everyone being watched, freedoms curbed, no freedom of speech, high taxes - Big Brother is watching...

    I cannot for one minute understand the position of the RIAA or any of the other bodies.. They cannot seriously believe that a download counts as a lost sale. That sale possibly wouldn't have occured anyhow so no revenue would have been forthcoming, and a download does not stop someone else from buying the product..

    Just another way to make even more money out of cash starved minions whilst the fat cats in this country get richer and richer.

    And don't even get me started on Mandelson's after dinner politics..

    The whole thing stinks.
    Potts
  • They must regard me as the ultimate enemy then.

    I download a lot of extremely high quality music, and don't pay a penny for it. Mind you none of it is on sale. It is all under creative Commons license (or public domain).

    I only ever have the radio on when driving, and that's really to catch traffic updates, so my exposure to 'commercial' music is fortunately limited. I say fortunately, because the stuff I do hear is almost entirely rubbish.
    Tezzer-5cae2
  • Very valid point tezzer

    Very valid point indeed and not to mention how this may effect anyone working in open source shifting rebuilds up & down the lines, not to drone on too much cause this topic is some what fragmented already across the site, but this has got to be nipped in the bud right now.
    CA-aba1d
  • Gov't proposes disconnecting file-sharers

    It is time we did like Germany and others and say no VOTE these people out before all our privacy is gone.
    Should your MP know your personal details? I think it is a step to far.
    1000185522
  • Illegal File Sharer and proud

    yes im an illegal file sharer! i download, and upload files constantly, BUT! As far as im concerned im doing nothing wrong, and here's why.
    Mainly, i download games. When a company releases a new game they issue a "demo" to give you an idea of what the game is like and whether you would like to buy it. now when i download a game, i play it for a few days then, if i like it, i go out and buy a copy. Likewise with music, i download the track, if i like it i then go and buy the album. i see it as a "testbed" although i am aware that people do abuse the system, at the end of the day, most people, if they are like me, both buy AND download content, so whats the issue? Also, restrict my bandwith? cut me off? well i hope they are going to pay my bills then, or the charge to my broadband company for coming out of my contract early, this is ridiculous. Brown and Co. out in 2010 i certainly wont be voting for them
    severedsolo
  • ...but not very convincing

    "As far as im concerned im doing nothing wrong,"

    What your doing is illegal, I think that could be interpreted as wrong.

    "When a company releases a new game they issue a "demo" to give you an idea of what the game is like and whether you would like to buy it. now when i download a game, i play it for a few days then, if i like it, i go out and buy a copy."

    This is somewhat confusing. You point out the game producers give you a way to test a product legally, so you think that gives you the right to try it illegally instead? This is a bit like saying you can get a test drive in a car, so it's not a problem if you steal it from the forecourt and return it a few days later.

    "Likewise with music, i download the track, if i like it i then go and buy the album."

    That's one of the reasons for radio and TV, so you can hear, then buy. Again, your argument seems rather weak.

    " at the end of the day, most people, if they are like me, both buy AND download content, so whats the issue?"

    They don't, or at least I think you would find it difficult to find any credible evidence to support this. If this was the case, I'm sure lots of surveys would have been publicized by the file sharing community showing this.
    richard@...
  • Not So.

    " at the end of the day, most people, if they are like me, both buy AND download content, so whats the issue?"

    They don't, or at least I think you would find it difficult to find any credible evidence to support this. If this was the case, I'm sure lots of surveys would have been publicized by the file sharing community showing this.

    #####

    This is in fact wrong. There have been studies showing just this point. If you look around you will find them (including an embarrassing one commisioned by the media moguls). For some strange reason they seem to get zero mainstream media coverage.

    Rights, wrongs & moral arguments I'm not prepared to delve into.
    Tezzer-5cae2
  • I must concede that point

    I've just spent some time poking around and I must concede that some studies do show some evidence of this. As with all surveys they are open to a certain level of interpretation, but some do indeed suggest this.
    richard@...