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Government to get tough on illegal file sharing
Tuesday 25 August 2009 11:45:37 by Andrew Ferguson

After the Digital Britain report that was long overdue but still eagerly anticipated, it looks as if we are set to see parts of the report chopped and changed, raising the question why was so much time and money wasted on the production of the report originally.

Today has seen an announcement of 'new ideas' by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for how unlawful peer-to-peer file-sharing can be controlled. The Government news distribution service has more detail and links to related documents for those wanting to read the full detail.

The original Digital Britain plan was for a softly softly education based approach for an initial 12 month period, after which if Ofcom could not show a significant decrease in the amount of illegal file-sharing, technical measures would take effect. It seems that the Government or perhaps just Lord Mandelson has intervened to shorten this time scale, by moving immediately to technical measures.

The proposals are:

  1. Blocking access to download sites
  2. Reducing broadband speeds
  3. Temporarily suspending the individual's Internet account as a last resort

It seems that the current idea is that the costs of sending the various written notifications that will still happen are to be split 50:50 between rights holders and Internet Service Providers, which could lead to an interesting backlash. For example if one provider due to the attractiveness of its products finds it is doing a great deal of rights work, it may adjust its products and use incentives to get some customers to move elsewhere. Another big possibility is that unless the new rules apply to all providers we may see consumers moving to for example business providers, or a rise in people having two broadband accounts so when one is suspended they can still leech on a second under a different billing name.

Suspension of an account, even temporarily, is going to be very difficult. In many households the Internet will be used by many people, and cutting someone off could lead to increased costs for banking or worse for people who also work from home.

There was a consultation period already under way, and these new ideas emerging in the middle of that process has meant that the consultation period will be extended to 29th September, but for those who submitted previously they may very well want to change their submission.

Policing the Internet is an almost impossible task. Witness the amount of information that gets out of countries that try and lock it down and one can see how difficult it will be to implement technical measures and the amount of work that will be required to keep things up to date. The consultation and report is already out of date to some extent, as while P2P is massively popular, it largely replaced things like newsgroups, and its likely something will replace current P2P systems and be a lot harder to track and tell what is legal and what is not.

Of course the cynics amongst us will be looking at this desire to move things faster as being part of a desire to get a bill giving Ofcom the necessary powers passed before the next General Election. The question is will the ISP industry be forced down a path, that if a different party comes into power they will suddenly find things changing, and both time and money will have been wasted getting ready for a new set of rules. At the end of the day broadband providers are not charities, and costs to them will get passed onto us as the consumer.

Interestingly most of the coverage of this issue, is about the punitive measures, but we see little or nothing about an end-game from the rights holders, i.e. music and film industry. In other words if they are to cut off the flow of free/affordable content that people obviously like having access to, what will they replace it with? The measures proposed are unlikely to make people buy more content, it may reduce the amount of free stuff out there, but for some artists and films that can result in less revenue from sales due to less buzz amongst the public.

As a final thought, with the ability of the Internet to link groups of disinterested people, will we perhaps see campaigns to boycott labels heavily involved in these plans?

Comments

Posted by herdwick over 7 years ago
"but for some artists and films that can result less revenue from sales due to less buzz amongst the public" - doesn't research show that illegal downloads mirrors legal sales ie it is the same content at zero price and therefore not a magic promotional opportunity.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
It may not be a magic promotional opportunity, but a few have utilised it as part of their o overall marketing.

File sharing has existed for years, so big question is why the big rush now?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
For books, free ebooks versions /increase/ sales. Baen put up statistics proving this what... six years ago now?

I'd also like to refer Mandleson to Microsoft's 2002 Darknet Paper.
Posted by TonyHoyle over 7 years ago
People will just flock to ISPs that don't implement such measures (or at least do the absolute legal minimum they can get away with, if forced).

Posted by KarlAustin over 7 years ago
All it will do is stop those casual users of illegal file sharing for a short while - then someone will make the process of setting up a VPN to a non-monitored location childs play and it'll start again. It certainly won't stop the hardcore file sharers - all they'll do is tunnel their traffic down an IPSec VPN to a data centre or to another country - where their traffic won't be filtered. It's the same as we were saying the other night at an event when we'd been speaking to a guy who works towards blocking other illegal material on the net - those serious won't be stopped that easy.
Posted by mikeblogs over 7 years ago
There is not any detail in the press update.
Many of the technical measures are being re-hearsed in the inforcement of 'fair use' policies, which I assume get translated into approved agreed industry technical measures once refined.
He must know that ammendment 138 (this very issue) caused the EU telecoms package to be rejected by the EU parliament in May, it's last act.
To get a proper August story we need Princess Anne's dog, Dotty to eat Mandelson
Posted by whatever2 over 7 years ago
I'm not sure who is the biggest idiot here... the media guy who felt mandy up under the table at dinner who actually believes these measures could or would make him more money, or mandy who believes them enough to go and tout them, or everyone else who will put them through.

They are giving away music free with mobile phones... when are the media companies going to realise it's over? Their model is now only worth what people will pay. If they fail to convince they fail to earn.

Fundamental flaw, make something cheap and easy for you to copy, and someone else will copy it cheaply and easily.

Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
Posted by herdwick about 3 hours ago
"but for some artists and films that can result less revenue from sales due to less buzz amongst the public" - doesn't research show that illegal downloads mirrors legal sales ie it is the same content at zero price and therefore not a magic promotional opportunity.

Only industry shilling research where the 'research' is being done to justify a position and is paid for by the industry. More independent research tends to suggest the opposite to the industry research, unsurprisingly.
Posted by ayeomans over 7 years ago
It's interesting to compare the figures given in the Digital Britain report (from the industry).
The £180m p.a. loss from music downloads and £152m p.a. are each very close to the size of the proposed "broadband tax" of £6 per month per line. Which in turn is about half the annual TV licence fee.
Posted by ayeomans over 7 years ago
There's an intriguing interactive comparison tool on http://www.apriceformusic.com/ modelling different approaches to pricing music. They look at how to create revenue from ISP-based services, rather than prevent losses through illegal download sites.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
What a waste of time and money. Why don't they actually bring in some experts on the matter who'll quickly tell them whatever they propose to enforce this will be broken in minutes.

People will always counterfeit/copy materials whether its at car boots or on-line. No its not right but spending money to counter it is fruitless, people will always find a way
Posted by meldrew over 7 years ago
The government are incapable of "getting tough" on anything other than soft targets. With the cost of benefits greater than the tax take (by only £8Bn last month!) I would have thought that our unelected deputy PM would have more important things on his mind.
Posted by Skip over 7 years ago
@ayeomans: the "broadband tax" is £6/year (50p/month), not £6 per month. So it's just over 4% of the cost of a TV licence.

So maybe they'll just add another 50p/month to compensate the music industry... then another 50p for the film industry, and so on.
Posted by badger90 over 7 years ago
they cannot disconnect without a court ruling. They will not get a court ruling (barring some mad judge) without acutal evidence.
If this comes in,and i doubt it will, sites will be blocked until the first legit one with a decent takedown policy is blocked and wins the inevitable court case and then the first person disconnected,without decent evidence, wins in the high court.
Posted by lloydio over 7 years ago
Obviously the government (or Mandelson) is being paid a nice incentive from the music and film industry to get this put in place before 2011. You cant put it passed Mandelson from looking at previous foul play he's committed in his time in government. Considering how many more other major important problems that Labour need to sort out, frankly this is a complete red herring not to sort out real issues.
Posted by Pigmaster over 7 years ago
To many uninformed people especially in the music/movie/gov are being lead that ALL torrents are illegal. There is no such thing as an illegal torrent in this country or any other. What is illegal is the content of some of those torrent files point to.
IP address are faked, randomly inserted in torrent swarms etc making "giving out IP address due to court order" does not guarantee that the file sharer is the owner of the IP address at the time.
Posted by Pigmaster over 7 years ago
How does an ISP know if the file going through their system is in copyright, out of copyright or even in the public domain. It can not do what the music/movie/gov man says that by blocking all p2p protocols will stop all illegal transfers. It will not and also what about the legitimate users of p2p distribution system do when their traffic is blocked.
Besides blocking will only force he traffic onto other protocols not designed for that sort of usage and this will then cause problems with the ISP. Fancy blocking port 80?
Posted by Pigmaster over 7 years ago
Or the potential TPB VPN system will kick in and then that, stop all VPN traffic, I am sure the music/movie industry will they that one and will tell lies to Gov to make out that all VPN traffic is illegal and bang goes your company-company vpn and your out of business.
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
What about people piggy backing on wireless connections? Will innocent people have their internet connection suspended as a result of the actions of a third person?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
You're legally responsible for the actions of anyone using your connection. There is no "innocent", the term is "stupid" if you don't secure your connection.

So that one falls flat.
Posted by mishminx over 7 years ago
Oh dear... Next thing you know those damned pesky drug pushing terrorists will be down the pub selling the latest MS Windows on dvd for a fiver.
Posted by scousetechie over 7 years ago
It wouldn't be Mandelson showboating would it? No of course not!
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
mandy is the pawn. or prawn. its all a smokescreen to cover up the failure of the digital britain team to deliver what this country needs, which is a decent broadband infrastructure to enable us to compete in the digital world. Anyone with half a brain knows you can't stop pirates. They also know the copyright laws are out of date. They also know the media is big enough to look after itself. So what are they up to? Either they are totally stupid or totally inefficient. or both. Or maybe they have some real clever plan they haven't told us about yet?
Posted by moged over 7 years ago

A few weeks ago mandy was presiding over the future of Vauxhall. So what's he done about potential redundancies costing the tax payer millions. These are things we can actually see and feel. Instead he is more interested in an imaginary of 1.4 billion. Heres a thought. Why not side with 60 million Britons who are strapped for cash at the moment. Go to the film and record companies and demand efficiencies for cheaper products. Its double standards when the public are viewed as stealing when downloading and yet politicians can steal tax payers money fiddling expenses with no comeback.
Posted by kamelion over 7 years ago
You're legally responsible for the actions of anyone using your connection. There is no "innocent", the term is "stupid" if you don't secure your connection.

So that one falls flat.


Oh? when was that passed into law then?
Posted by c_j_ over 7 years ago
"File sharing has existed for years, so big question is why the big rush now? "

Now? Because on August 7th, Lord "Two Resignations" Mandelson dined with David Geffen (of Asylum, Geffen Records and Dreamworks infamy), where Mandy was taking a free holiday in the Corfu villa of the Rothschild banking dynasty.

So says Murdoch anyway, and he wouldn't mislead us.

http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/the_web/article6797844.ece
Posted by Aqualung over 7 years ago
There is quite substantial legislation already in place that can be used but we very very rarely see it used why ???
If the media industry are so cocksure of their facts they should at least try using that first,of course they want to be judge and jury and by pass the law is the answer and in Lord Peter they have a perfect partner he doesnt play by the rules.
Posted by prlzx over 7 years ago
There is ample scope here for badly worded legislation to inadvertantly make FTP illegal in the letter of the law unless there is careful scrutiny.

Or how about: "Sorry sir / madam your annual VPN-enhanced-CRB-checkup is due for renewal. Please complete the form and wait for approval."
Posted by otester over 7 years ago
All about control...another step down the road of fascism...
Posted by kawasakiMan over 7 years ago
You're legally responsible for the actions of anyone using your connection. There is no "innocent", the term is "stupid" if you don't secure your connection.

Mmmmmm, so if someone breaks into your house, and uses YOUR pc to download Transformers 2, you must also be stupid & guilty ?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
"will we perhaps see campaigns to boycott labels heavily involved in these plans?"

It can be strongly argued that listening to music is immoral. Any music. As a medium, it's main purveyers gave shown scant regard for anything but their own profit, regardless of the social costs.

kamelion - It has /allways/ been the case. Note that this is different from /possession/ charges for cp and the like.
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
You're legally responsible for the actions of anyone using your connection. There is no "innocent", the term is "stupid" if you don't secure your connection.

So as an individual I am responsible but as an ISP I am not? Dawn can you prove your statement as it seems unreasonable.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
The ISP is provind you with a service. The service is legally in your name. If the service is misused because of negligence on your part, then you have a major liability problem.

Not turning on wireless security is clearly negligent.
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
Interesting point of view, but you are a little extreme. You and I are computer literate, however the majority of folks out there are not and I doubt that they would understand the implications of not turning on wireless security. I would consider it manifestly unfair to penalise such people.
In any case I have a higher regard for file sharers than the bosses of the banking system!
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
I see many people here have common sense, I agree, trying to enforce is laughable and measures will be worked around, if needs be people will simply share offline. The media industry really needs to learn and accept this and stop spending millions trying to lobby governments and counter it. I would expect they lose more money trying to fight it than on lost sales.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
TGVrecord - For some years now home ADSL modems and routers and have been sold with setup CD's which which involve turning the wireless security on. So...
Posted by otester over 7 years ago
Problem is people fail to see this is about GOVERNMENT control, forget the corporations.

Copyright inhibits innovation.
Posted by ElBobbo over 7 years ago
BT still uses WEP (64 bit) as far as I know; almost as insecure as an open connection. As far as I know, none of the common brands ship routers that are WPA2 capable. Hence, all routers are - by default - inherently weak and open for exploitation.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Legally, though, ElBobbo, you're covered even if you've only used WEP as long as you're not technical enough to know better.

And huh, /all/ the routers I've seen in the last year so (and some before) have had WEP2 options. Heck, my old Asus WL 500GL does it, and has for years.
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
Dawn, how many people know the difference between WEP and WEP2? You seem to have it in for the average person. It is people like you who create laws that are fundamentaly wrong and unjust.
Posted by bogwart over 7 years ago
You'd think Mandy, of all people, would appreciate a little P2P action ...
Posted by johntsxxxx over 7 years ago
ElBobbo might be interested to know that my eighteen month old Fujitsu-Siemens router supplied by Tiscali came with and set up forWPA2
Posted by leshewitt over 7 years ago
"You seem to have it in for the average person. It is people like you who create laws..." A bit extreme!

I tend to agree with Dawn. Surely it's up to people to secure their connection, even at a basic level. I prefer to keep my router reasonably secure so that the bad guys would have to work fairly hard to download some of the nastier stuff via my connection. Even the cheapo routers will have WEP and I would expect most to have WPA.

(Dawn: is your reference to WEP2 a typo - should it be WPA2?)
Posted by leshewitt over 7 years ago
Securing your connection is to some extent like securing your house/car/caravan/motorbike. No matter how much security you put on there, someone with enough smarts, power or both will always be able to get through. All you can hope to do is cause them enough problems so they go and steal the easy stuff from up the road.
Posted by Matthusala over 7 years ago
Dawn, what about BT's Hot Spot’s! This requires you to release a small amount of your own bandwidth that can be used as a Hot Spot by other people for the privilege of using Hot Spots for your own convenience whilst out and about. Would you still be responsible for what other people download whilst piggy-backing off your connection?
Posted by willread over 7 years ago
@Dawn
Stop talking rubbish and find something better to do.
You lost the argument about legal responsibility - move on.
It is dead easy to get round WEP protections, as a friend of mine found when a neighbour was "borrowing" his connection. I still maintain PCs that are only capable of WEP protection without having to fork out on hardware upgrades.
Posted by dragon1945 over 7 years ago
My daughters and I buy 1 DVD per month each, and then swap around the family. i.e. we buy 1 copy of 5 DVD's instead of 5 copies of each. We often swap with friends and neighbours too. What is the difference between that and P2P apart from numbers involved?
The day Mandy minces out and pays my Internet costs, he can feel free to poke his nose in. Until then, my Internet use is a Private Contract between me and my ISP.
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 7 years ago
Theoretically there's quite a lot that is illegal to send through the postal system but there would be a hell of an outcry if the Royal Mail started investigating in detail.

Also it's comparatively easy to hide the actual contents of data packets if push comes to shove.

I wonder what it's like on that strange cloud Mandy is living on - or is he just into weird substance abuse?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
leshewitt - Yes WPA2, my bad.

Matthusala - Those are, verifyably, a seperate connection. While technically it could be a problem, I can't see a reasonable case against the wifi spot owner.

@Willread - I "lost" something? I stated the law as things stand. And if you chose to maintain obselete crap, that's your lookout.
Posted by aldo13 over 7 years ago
I have a stupidity issue on this. Why is it that our government, with its unelected Prime Minister, are more interested in stopping people from getting copies of "overpriced media" for free, than sorting out the ****oles who bankrupted our country? It beggars belief that "alleged" expenses fiddlers and banking supremos are still walking the streets and poor ptp are getting punished. Get a grip on reality you sad ***** and you might have an outside chance of getting reelected. Don't start me on petrol prices!!!!!
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 7 years ago
WPA2 is all very well, but one of my laptops has issues with it so I'm stuck with WEP. Anyway if some wardriver is determined to use your WiFi WPA2 won't stop them - it'll just take them a bit longer than a couple of minutes to crack
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
Posted by leshewitt about 10 hours ago
"I tend to agree with Dawn. Surely it's up to people to secure their connection, even at a basic level"

Fine, but we are talking about people not machines and not everyone has a basic grasp of technology. There are even university educated foks who can just about manage to switch a PC on! I did work in a IT dept for a while and I was shocked just how little some of the IT consultants knew about PC fundamentals. Don't forget that the vast majority of the population have not studied any science in detail!
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Mr_Fluffy - While annoying, using /any/ encryption does cover you legally.

TGVrecord - Again, consumer routers and ADSL modem/routers are sold, and have been for some years now, with a CD containing a setup which includes wireless security.
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
Posted by Dawn_Falcon about 1 hour ago "TGVrecord - Again, consumer routers and ADSL modem/routers are sold, and have been for some years now, with a CD containing a setup which includes wireless security."

You know that I know that but the average punter gets confused and is likely to switch it off inadvertantly. Also the majority of people do not bother to change the default password of their modems. I believe it is a case of technology being too advanced for the average user.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
The average punter won't no, because he won't know how to log into the router in the first place, let alone find security settings if he did manage it. You're creating a mound out of a molehill.

(And again, the default username/password /is/ changed on the vast majority of routers, because it's something you enter during the CD-based setup!)
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
Dawn you make the assumption that all routers modems are set up with a CD. I set mine up without recourse to a CD. You are obviously a clever person but I think you lack empathy with ordinary people. I’m sure they all love you at work
Posted by simond over 7 years ago
Guess 'pirates' won't be voting Labour then in 2010? Will anyone be voting Labour in 2010?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
TGCrecord - Every single consumer-aimed one I've seen in the last 2 1/2 years had had a setup CD. If you picked up a business router without, that's your call, but it dosn't have any bearing on my point.

Also, you're rude and wrong. You must be really popular at parties.

simond - So vote for who, precisely? The Tories policies don't differ in any major way, they'll destroy tens of thousands of peoples lives to make policial points and they're pro-censorship.
Posted by scragglymonk over 7 years ago
plenty of ways to get around it, vpn, off site data transfers....

using jamendo.com for 99% of all my music, rest is from streaming radio :)
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
Dawn you make too many assumptions, I did not pick up a business router without a CD. I just did not use the one supplied. Frankly I don't care if you think I am being rude towards you as you are an insufferable bore.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
So basically, you had a setup CD, didn't use it and are claiming that they're not provided?

You're acting like an idiot.
Posted by ElBobbo over 7 years ago
So - if I understand this correctly - you're legally responsible for anything that passes through your connection. I don't see how having an open wireless access point is any different to having a WEP or WPA/TKIP encrypted wireless network. Neither of them are in any way secure so you could have someone abuse your connection without your knowledge; this is the key point, it could be impossible to tell if someone has been using your connection without your permission.
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
Dawn don't make things up. I did not claim that setup CD were not provided. Try reading posts before replying.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
You were going on about how people didn't have it set up. Well, they do if they use the setup CD. You refused to use it, and you're denying that they could set it up.

Your actions are why you didn't realise you were wrong. Throwing a hissy fit over it now...

ElBobbo - Legally, it matters. In other terms, yea, you're right. But legally important.
Posted by ElBobbo over 7 years ago
Dawn - legally you'd be required to show that someone broke your encryption and committed whatever illegal acts you're accused of committing. If you can't show that someone broke into your network and used your connection, then it doesn't matter if or how it's encrypted.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
ElBobbo - Nope. You're only required to show that no device in your possession has the files in question, or traces of, and that you've taken due care and attention to security (/any/ enryption)
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
Dawn is the one throwing a hissy fit. I will make this my last comment as it is clear Dawn wants the last word and who I am to deny her?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
her? Heh, yet another not to get the reference.

And you are going on how people can't do the setup, BrokenRecord. They can, they can use the CD. The one you refused to use, and so didn't know about. Your issue, nothing to do with me.
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
Dawn was a girls name the last time I checked. However I apologies for getting the sex wrong.
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