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ISPs unite over governments plans to disconnect file sharing users
Thursday 03 September 2009 12:27:50 by John Hunt

In a letter to The Times, Ian Livingston of BT, Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse and Tom Alexander of Orange have criticised government plans set out by Lord Mandelson to disconnect users who illegally share files online. They reject the idea that ISPs and blameless consumers should bear the brunt of the cost of another industry's fight against piracy.

"Sir, We agree that the creative industries play an important role in the UK and understand the challenge that illegal filesharing presents (letter, Sept 1). We do not condone or encourage such activity, but we are concerned that the Government’s latest proposals on the “how” to reduce illegal filesharing are misconceived and threaten broadband consumers’ rights and the development of new attractive services. Experience in other countries suggests that pursuing such an approach can result in significant consumer resistance. Any new policy must be considered very carefully.

Any decision to move to harsh and punitive measures such as disconnection must be genuinely underpinned by rigorous and objective assessment by Ofcom. Consumers must be presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty. We must avoid an extrajudicial “kangaroo court” process where evidence is not tested properly and accused broadband users are denied the right to defend themselves against false accusations. Without these protections innocent customers will suffer. Any penalty must be proportionate. Disconnecting users from the internet would place serious limits on their freedom of expression. Usually, constraints to freedom of expression are imposed only as the result of custodial sentences, or incitement to racial hatred, or libel. The proposal that internet service providers — and by implication broadband customers — should pay most of the cost of these measures to support the creative industries is grossly unfair since the vast majority of consumers do not fileshare illegally. Further, this payment approach would discourage content industries from developing new services.

We hope that the Government will consider genuinely consumers’ rights in its endeavours to protect the creative industries.

Charles Dunstone, talktalk

Ian Livingston, BT

Jim Killock, Open Rights Group

Ed Mayo, Consumer Focus

Deborah Prince, Which?

Tom Alexander, Orange UK

Letter to The Times

The Department for Business last week put forward plans to get tough on illegal file sharing that had previously been ruled out in the Digital Britain report. Musicians, songwriters and producers are also fiercely against Mandelson's plans, with a coalition of bodies representing artists including Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John attacking the proposals as expensive and illogical.

"We vehemently oppose the proposals being made and suggest that the stick is now in danger of being way out of proportion to the carrot. The failure of 30,000 US lawsuits against consumers and the cessation of the pursuit of that policy should be demonstration enough that this is not a policy that any future-minded UK government should pursue."

Statement from coalition of bodies representing artists

Similar proposals to disconnect users were put forward in France, but the law there was rejected as it undermined the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" and was also deemed a disproportionate infringement of the right to freedom of expression. Today's letter from three of the largest broadband providers in the UK echos these concerns and we hope that the UK government will take heed of this and listen to the industry and consumers affected.

Comments

Posted by JohnUK over 7 years ago
Would not disconnecting users be considered a punitive measure and therefore be breaking the rule of law if not basic rights of innocent until proven guilty?
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
simple fact is, the music companies are relying on evidence that would be thrown out of court, so they have lobbied and lobbied to get laws changed to bypass the court system.
Posted by herdwick over 7 years ago
An ISP can decline to provide service to an individual in the same way as you can be barred from a pub or a chain of shops. Freedom of expression is only mildly impaired as you can use an internet cafe / library / mobile phone to get online regardless. It doesn't really compare with being jailed or fined.
Posted by Gypsydog over 7 years ago
herdwick: Freedom of expression is only mildly impaired as you can use an internet cafe / library / mobile phone to get online regardless. It doesn't really compare with being jailed or fined.

Are you for real??? Your rights are impaired or not!!

Also, why should I go to an "internet cafe" (sic) when I have perfectly good computers at home just because some government jobsworth has had his ear bent over lunch. (At the Savoy probably)
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@herdwick:Bad analogy. You're talking there about the right to deny someone access to your property. It suggests that you see illegal file sharing as being on par with trespass.

You should also consider that being barred from one pub or one shop only stops you going into those particular premises. A closer analogy would be if getting barred from a pub or shop meant you were barred from all pubs and shops. Or even closer:meant being barred from all public places.

Hardly reasonable or proportionate.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Herdwick - No, they can't. Per the Telecoms Package, they can only deny you for the same reason a gas or electric company could, as it's considered a basic utility.
Posted by bosie over 7 years ago
Innocent until proven guilty is something this authoritarian Labour government cares little about. Increasingly we have seen more state involvement in people's personal lives since Labour came to power and they will stop at nothing to get it. We have a lot to fear from the policies begun by Blair and continued in Brown. Good riddance to the lot of them at the next general election.
Posted by Blognorton over 7 years ago
The propser of this law is a proven liar and complete stranger to the truth in all things. He is unelected, and utterly without integrity.
Anything he says or proposes needs to be rejected out of hand.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Bosie - You realise that the Tories are far more pro-censorship and have big plans for ISP's, right?
Posted by herdwick over 7 years ago
"You should also consider that being barred from one pub or one shop only stops you going into those particular premises" - I did, that's why I said you weren't totally barred from the internet you merely lost your own connection.
Posted by herdwick over 7 years ago
Dawn - What UK law prevents a UK ISP disconnecting a customer that breaches their contract ?
Posted by chrisat over 7 years ago
Would you go into a shop and steal music? Nope.

Would you go into a shop and steal music wearing an invisible cloak (i.e a 256bit encrypted line) Hell yes.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
"I did, that's why I said you weren't totally barred from the internet you merely lost your own connection".

1)Your connection gives you access to the entire world disabling it just for a single transgression is unfair as per my original comment.

2)If you can use another connection then the 'punishment' is nothing but a minor inconvenience and as such is petty and less effective than the original pub barring.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
Those companies claim they are losing billions and face the death of their industry. They think that people should be punished by either (depending on your point of view):

1)Depriving them of access to the modern world.
- dangerously draconian and unjustifiable.

2)Forcing them to hijack a neighbour's wifi or walk into the nearest place with a public hotspot.
- Petty and and barely registering as a minor nuisance.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
I am absolutely not a fan of these pirates. I think they should grow up. Nonetheless this whole idea of terminating access is a none-starter from my POV. Any half way intelligent pirate won't use their own account in the first place. Either that or they cover their tracks. Or else they live in a shared residence and the powers that be won't be able to cut off access for fear of penalising the innocent.

Or maybe they will cut the entire house off.

Shame if the house they cut off is your neighbour's because you were piggybacking their wifi, huh?
Posted by whatever2 over 7 years ago
An Entanet reseller stopped service to one person because that person's comments were deemed to have breached their contract.

Dawn, you need to read what your signing when you buy something. But you can always take on the role and see if it's contestable in court...
Posted by mishminx over 7 years ago
There may be a positive to all this, as those who seek to learn. May well be pushed in to seeking alternatives to industry standard branded software. Which may eventually push through changes... I do wonder how India and China would cope without access to UK networks. I also wonder who else we could cut off if we followed through with this silly policy to its extreme. Maybe we could just have a UK internet with a government mandated audit once a year.
Posted by herdwick over 7 years ago
"Or maybe they will cut the entire house off.
Shame if the house they cut off is your neighbour's because you were piggybacking their wifi, huh?"

- remember personal responsibility ? the person with the ISP account needs to either get control of what it is used for or accept the consequences.
Posted by herdwick over 7 years ago
Perhaps a better solution is for all ISPs to restrict P2P traffic in the way that Talk Talk do - less than 5% of their bandwidth. Certainly constrains the size of the problem.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
chrisat, you mean would you go in a shop, copy the music from the cd to some other device and then leave the cd behind. Since thats the equivalent almost. Note the recent ruling on premiership football internet streaming (judge ruled it can stay as shared for free not profit).
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
herdwick something very similiar was proposed in the original digital britian report but mandelson deemed it too soft. I dont even agree with that either tho, since its working on the motto guilty until proven innocent which is wrong, the solution is not to molly cuddle the music companies instead it is for them to move with the times stop been attached to ancient business practices and profit expectations.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Herdwick - Currently none, but the government will have to pass something to comply with EU telecoms law. In the meantime, if they do disconnect someone appealing to the ECHR on that basis is entirely viable.

And if they constrain p2p traffic, then they hammer the core userbase these days, given how many entirely legitimate programs use p2p. TalkTalk is bleeding money and customers for good reason.
Posted by chrisat over 7 years ago
@chrysalis

If I had an invisible cloak, I probably wouldn't be too fussed about music. LOL
Posted by pigfister over 7 years ago
And it also turns out that the BPI (RIAA) cooked all the numbers are tried to convince people that the data was gathered by an independent source when it was the RIAA that made up the data in the first place.

Music industry cooks UK government's piracy stats: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/04/sabip_7m_stat_sponsored_by_bpi/

RIAA, CRIA, SOUNDEXCHANGE, BPI, IFPI, Ect:

# Sony BMG Music Entertainment
# Warner Music Group
# Universal Music Group
# EMI
Posted by pigfister over 7 years ago
If you listen to the radio 4 programme they state that the BPI would not allow them to see the original report but only supplied the cooked up numbers, if the report was correct why would they not release it for public scrutiny?

The report is what the "P2P disconnection plan" is based upon.

Radio 4 cooking the numbers report can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00mcwv5/More_or_Less_04_09_2009/
Posted by xb0xguru over 7 years ago
This is anything but new - we were making tapes for other people 20 odd year ago, before the Internet was even known. The only reason so much fuss is being caused now is that we (as a population) are sharing the content on a much broader scale and are being branded 'Pirates'. Digital media was devised as a way to reproduce content so it stayed true to the original - what on earth did they think was going to happen? Our media has evolved and yet our Governments and the Media Industry are still in the dark ages.
Posted by xb0xguru over 7 years ago
Rather than penalising those file sharing, we should be finding better ways to do it legally. There will always be a large number of people who will buy their CDs, DVDs and visit the Cinema, however charging a reasonable amount of money to do these things via the Internet (knowing that the first one has already happened with a massive success) has got to be the way forward. People will find other ways (Newsgroups via SSL connections for instance) to access their content, so closing one door will just open another.
Posted by alan-borers over 7 years ago
Herdwick

you said "Freedom of expression is only mildly impaired as you can use an internet cafe / library / mobile phone to get online regardless."

Stupid rubbish.
How can a house bound user get to an internet cafe or library ?

Is herdwick going to fund a charity to provide free of charge private ambulances to such people so they together with their life support equipment can be safely taken to the library ?

Think before posting.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
why is filesharing even on the government radar? the figures from the industry itself show very healthy profits in the middle of a recession, hardly an industry needing state assistance.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Because the media industries are in the business of manipulating information, Chrysalis, and hence deal well with the lobbying process.
Posted by alewis over 7 years ago
This really sums Mandeleson and this Govt up succintly: Our esteemed (and thrice disgraced) "Business Minister" Mandelson has lunch with Geffen, and a couple of days later announces this toady-up policy.

Meanwhile, over in Germany, Angela Merkel is having lunch with the auto industry and saving 25,000 German jobs, at the [probable] expense of 5,000 UK jobs.

How many jobs will Mandys' proposal save.... NONE. Well done Labour, priorities correct as usual.
Posted by Groovehound over 7 years ago
People are ignoring the fact that the music industry employs less people than it used to, record shops have shut. However, I also see plenty of people buying direct from bands and a shake-up of the middle-men where they exist.
Number of jobs = government agenda? Or just listening to David Geffen, a non-UK citizen? Democracy in action, eh?
Posted by vampkitty69 over 7 years ago
If the music companies actually made some decent music, people would be more willing to buy it.

Plus you got music video's, free to air music channels, ipods and mp4 players, n97 and other similar phones that allow you to play music vids from youtube and other places, so no wonder cd sales are down, it very little to do with file sharers.

Most file sharers will actually go out and buy the album if they like it, it just like going to a car showroom and getting a test drive of a car.

You will always get a few who steal something, but overall, most file sharers are try before you buy shoppers.
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