ISPs, rights groups react to gov't P2P proposals

ISPs, rights groups react to gov't P2P proposals

Summary: Lord Mandelson's proposals to disconnect the internet service of illegal file-sharers have come under criticism as disproportionate and worrying for businesses

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ISPs, experts and digital rights groups reacted swiftly on Tuesday to government proposals that would see illegal file-sharers disconnected from their internet service.

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) proposed on Tuesday that disconnection should be considered in the case of those who persistently share copyrighted material online.

The proposals were revealed during an ongoing BIS consultation that was already considering measures to combat peer-to-peer piracy. Lord Carter, the author of the Digital Britain report that kicked off the consultation, had rejected disconnection as a sanction in the report.

Rob Bratby, a partner at the law firm Olswang, pointed out that the government had "changed their position on which they're consulting midway through the consultation, which is not best practice".

From a legal standpoint, the viability of the government's new proposals hinges on the passage of an amendment to Europe's legal framework for telecommunications, Bratby said. Arguments between European parliamentarians and telecoms ministers over this amendment, which calls for internet connectivity to be recognised as a fundamental right, have sidelined the matter into conciliation.

"If that amendment remains in place, the UK government will be unable to enact this proposal," Bratby said.

He noted that the measure, if introduced, could lead to a file-sharer's family or housemates being cut off from the internet when a shared service is disconnected. That could prompt a human rights case, he said, but added that "whether it succeeds is another matter".

Another potential problem is intruders who piggyback on a wireless connection, according to Sophos security consultant Graham Cluley. "People who illegally download material that they haven't paid for aren't going to have any qualms about using someone else's internet connection," he said.

The measure could create "innocent victims" and give real pirates a plausible defence, he added.

Cluley also noted that businesses could be affected by a file-sharing crackdown, asking: "If the alleged illegal downloads appear to originate from the workplace — will the entire company be disconnected from the net?"

Campaigners at the Open Rights Group said they will be making an official complaint about the new proposals, which closely followed a meeting between Lord Mandelson and film and music tycoon David Geffen. "This policy U-turn seems to have taken place as the result of a few private conversations. We will be making an official complaint about the shoddiness of this consultation process, which seems to have broken the government's own rules," the group's executive director Jim Killock said in a statement.

"It smacks of a knee-jerk reaction at a time when copyright infringement is reducing and online revenues are increasing. Mandelson risks bringing copyright into disrepute," Killock added.

The ISP Association (ISPA), an industry group, said in a statement that it was "disappointed by the proposal to force ISPs to suspend users' accounts". It noted that ISPs and consumer groups consider disconnection of users to be a "disproportionate response".

The industry group also disagreed with the government's proposal that the business secretary — currently Lord Mandelson — should be the one to decide which technical measures are "necessary and appropriate" for use as sanctions against illegal file-sharers.

"ISPA would be concerned if, as is proposed, the secretary of state were given the power to determine when a system that included imposing technical sanctions on users should be introduced," the group said. "This would politicise the process and would be a negative step."

However, Moneysupermarket.com called the proposals "a timely move from the government".

"Many people may be unaware that the way they are downloading is illegal, and this announcement should prompt people to think before they use an illegal site," the price-comparison site's broadband manager James Parker said in a statement.

"Although there are many illegal sites, there are also plenty of legitimate places to download from such as iTunes or Spotify — which allow users to legally stream music from a vast library — and these kinds of services should also help to stop illegal downloaders."

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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3 comments
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  • This is not good...

    """"Campaigners at the Open Rights Group said they will be making an official complaint about the new proposals, which closely followed a meeting between Lord Mandelson and film and music tycoon David Geffen. "This policy U-turn seems to have taken place as the result of a few private conversations. We will be making an official complaint about the shoddiness of this consultation process, which seems to have broken the government's own rules," the group's executive director Jim Killock said in a statement."""

    This says it all really this is blatant cohesion ministers should not be meeting directly with consumer group leader's at all, but rather a single group meeting with all affected people's involved being present, like Open Rights Group's ISP's and consumer groups that represent both offline & online sellers.

    As also stated they are plenty of legitimate sites out there offering streaming services of various types and what not, as well as bogus ones which are becoming more and more difficult to tell apart from legitimate sites.

    Not to mention the fact that hackers also bounce there own illegal activities through innocent peoples connections all the time, typically the governments blanket rule approach will only affect the innocent and not touch the real crooks at all.

    If they can't even organize a fair clear and transparent meeting like this one right, then there's very little hope for us all.
    CA-aba1d
  • Quite so

    What CA said !!

    This government seem determined to provide endless proof of the fact that the old system of taking a blank politician and magically granting him deep skills in a complex subject and making him the minister, is fundamentally flawed and very dangerous. Maybe it worked in the 1800s and before, when the depth of knowledge required to judge these things was fairly light weight. These days things are a great deal more complex and inter-related. This old fashioned approach has had it's day.

    You want proof? Just read the commentary on the NEXT half baked knee jerk law they try and introduce .. or the last one .. you choose.
    Andrew Meredith
  • Copyright?

    Looks like everyone forgot what copyright stands for. I should promote the progress and learning, and copyright is synthetic right given by the society to the authors to encourage them to give back their works to the society. It is not for megaincome for megamediacorps. Whether author does not create anything new - what is the purpose of protecting this right? Can beatles write new songs? Can Elvis? Why the hell these materials are still copyrighted? To protect "beneficiaries"? Who the hell are they and why the society should protect their rights? Wheat a hell prodection after the author's death stands for? What creative work could dead author give the society?

    From other perspective - what a hell bad will happened if the "copyrighted material" will not be protected so long? Why mediacorps have that special right to control information flow in the cost of other people rights? It comes really true that in near future there will not be devices that allows us replication of media materials even when we already paid for it. The replication price was the problem in other industries. In the information area this is not problem anymore. And what we are doing? We are preventing this device to be manufactured by the law to protect someones income. Oh my god - may be we start to suppress innovations in energy area to protect gas and oil monopolies? Stop engineering - new cheap devises make someone lose his income. Bring this farmer to the jail - his cheap apples makes looses in my supermarket network. What a hell is this - protecting someones income by the law? Obligating others to pay to the mediacorps by the law for the synthetic right society gives to the creative person?

    Does our world go crazy?

    Todays copyright law is not for the progress and is not for the learning. It is protection for medialobby megaincomes. It's a new era tax for society. Nowadays copyright law should be reviewed. The terms should be really shortened. There exclusive right transferring should be banned, the protected copyright should remains in the author's hands.

    No more exclusive contracts. No more protection for the life and after death. No more long term protections - no giving to the society - no right protection from the society.
    razer-a3f6a