Twenty years ago, the only criminals in cyberspace were characters in science fiction. Now, the threat is so real the European Union is considering laws to regulate the very fabric of the network — and as in the best thrillers, the true masterminds of mischief are coming to light.
This is not a free process. The ISPs complain that the Data Retention Act will make the Internet more expensive. Civil rights activists warn of the invasion of our privacy. And nobody can say for sure that keeping Internet and phone records for a year will really catch more terrorists, instead of making it easier to persecute those who don't consider they have anything to hide. There are arguments on both sides yet it is clear, whatever one's opinions of them, that the politicians are terrified of getting it wrong. We can still cut them some slack.
That's not true for the entertainment industry, which in a move of breathtaking opportunism is seeking to hitch its wagon to the fight against terrorism. It wants to use the Data Retention directive as a weapon in its fight against copyright violators. It counts copying a Scissor Sisters track as equal to the 'terrorism and serious crime' that justifies the DRD. As this is clearly not the case, the entertainment industry is also lobbying MEPs to get them to extend the Directive to cover all crimes while simultaneously persuading another group of MEPs to make intellectual-property violation a criminal offence through the equally troubling IPRED2 directive.
At a stroke, this will criminalise millions of people while stripping their privacy from them — all for acts of dubious harmfulness. Who could possibly contemplate such excessive measures? One look at the Creative and Media Business Alliance's list of members gives the game away: SonyBMG.
This is the company that saw fit to use a rootkit to hide its digital rights management. The company that still refuses to admit the extent of its mistake. The company being sued by consumer groups, state governments and individuals for infesting PCs with malware.
These people have demonstrated beyond doubt that they despise their customers. They have no concept of justice, of proportion, of individual rights. To let them help make law would be to put judges' robes on gangsters.
Tell your MEP that you'd rather Sony didn't set the agenda for Internet crime. That you don't want to give it the power to monitor your phones and break down your doors. That it has disqualified itself utterly from the argument.
There is no place on the Net or on our computers for those who think secrecy, malware and the criminal law are appropriate tools for business: such ideas, like SonyBMG itself, should be put back in the pages of science fiction where they belong.