UK Proposes French-style Filesharing Law

Wed 16 September 2009 17:00, Barry Adams

UK Proposes French-style Filesharing Law

The international copyright lobby, financed by media conglomerates, is gaining traction among European governments. The French have already succumbed to pressure from these lobbyists and have finally managed to adopt, after several aborted attempts, a controversial law that disconnects internet users after they've been proven to illegally download copyrighted material.

Now Lord Mandelson, a British MP, is proposing a similar law for the UK. This despite the Digital Britain report published by the UK government itself a few months ago ruling out the disconnect-strategy in the fight against copyright infringement.

Let's for a moment forget that copyright law as it exists today was written for an entirely different age where instant digital reproduction did not exist. Instead let's focus on what this law might mean for the average citizen.

First, it's ridiculously easy to download copyrighted material. It's so easy in fact that you're likely to do it several times in any given week's regular internet activity, probably without realising it yourself. Copyright law is so broad and often so vague that to call the line between fair use and copyright infringement blurry is a monumental understatement.

Secondly, it’s nearly impossible to prove that a specific individual downloaded copyrighted material. An IP address can belong to an entire household or even a whole building, and can also easily be spoofed. Yet IP addresses are used exclusively as evidence of individual copyright offences.

Thirdly, cutting off internet access means you won't be able to do a lot of things that are necessary in these modern times. You won't be able to do your banking online any more. Can't book any flights or tickets online. Unable to look up the latest screen times of that new movie you want to see. Won't be able to download that discount voucher.

Cutting people off from internet access is a severe punishment that doesn't measure up to the damage caused. It's like prohibiting convicted drivers from using the road after a handful of minor traffic infractions - not just from driving cars, but from using any means of road transport at all.

Fortunately we have organisations like the Open Rights Group in the UK that fight against these corporate-sponsored regulatory missteps.

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