Forcing Pirates to Walk the Plank
The British government has devised a novel solution to dealing with online piracy: Disable the Internet accounts of violators.
Broadband providers could be forced to suspend their customers’ accounts under proposals announced on Tuesday by the UK government to tackle internet file-sharing.
The proposals mark a hardening of the government’s stance against piracy since the Digital Britain report was published in June, and would give substantial new powers to Lord Mandelson, secretary of state for business, over the process.
The final decision on whether to disconnect those downloading copyrighted music and movies will now rest with Lord Mandelson rather than with Ofcom, the communications regulator. This would allow the government to move “much quicker” than Ofcom acting alone, the government said. “We are considering the case for adding suspension of accounts into the list of measures that could be imposed,” the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said on Tuesday. It added that this would be a “very serious sanction” that “should be regarded as very much a last resort”.
The proposal has upset ISPs and consumer groups.
A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “We share the government’s commitment to addressing the piracy problem and recognise that new laws have an important role to play in this. But persuasion not coercion is the key to changing consumer behaviour as a heavy-handed, punitive regime will simply alienate mainstream consumers. “The government should be ensuring a balance of action against repeat infringers and the rapid development of new legitimate services that provide a compelling alternative to illegal file-sharing.”
Larry Whitty, chairman of Consumer Focus, said: “Cutting people off the internet for allegedly infringing copyright is disproportionate. And to do so without giving consumers the right to challenge the evidence against them undermines fundamental rights to a fair trial.”
Cutting off access upon mere accusation strikes me as untenable. But, given due process, it’s hardly draconian to take away repeat violators’ access something they’re abusing. While not exactly the same thing, we take away driving privileges for those who repeatedly operate their vehicle while intoxicated.
Photo credit: Derek Sivers