Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is Mandy on the yacht? Government issues file-sharing proposals

The new, stricter proposed rules for filesharing that were dictated to Peter Mandelson during his time on Geffen's yacht - sorry, I mean "totally coincidentally being drafted while Mandelson just happened to be hanging out with Geffen and Spielberg"; I think must be something wrong with my keyboard - have been published today.

The reason for throwing away the more carefully-considered approach developed in the Digital Britain report is being given as "Steven Spielberg asked us to, while passing the port to Lord Mandelson".

Sorry, that should read:

previous plans would take too long to implement "given the pressure put on the creative industries by piracy".

Ah, so in other words: instead of a measured approach, let's just hit people with bottles.
"We've been listening carefully to responses to the consultation this far, and it's become clear there are widespread concerns that the plans as they stand could delay action, impacting unfairly upon rights holders," said Treasury minister Stephen Timms, who is responsible for implementation of Digital Britain.

"... so we've decided to pass all the unfairness on to the public, instead."
Under the tougher proposals, internet service providers would be obliged to block access to download sites, throttle broadband connections or even temporarily cut off access for repeat offenders.

Communications regulator Ofcom would report regularly to the business secretary, Lord Mandelson, providing evidence of whether such action is required against illegal filesharers.

Ah, blocking access to "download sites". Thereby making their legitimate uses fail, while simply encouraging unlicensed filesharers to migrate to another download service.

And surely even Timms understands that you can't throw people off the internet. Especially not at the whim of EMI. You can make a law which removes people's ability to participate in society, and it's childish and wasteful of this government to pretend you can. And offensive that they think they should.

Maybe Timms hasn't read the Digital Britain report, but one of the key themes is removing digital exclusion. How can it be that one part of government is trying to get everyone hooked up, while another part is running round trying to pull people off.

Broadband throttling is a bit of a hoot in its own right - the way Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown governments have allowed the communications industry to limp along in the UK, it's unlikely that many people even have an internet connection good enough to notice if their connection got throttled. Or perhaps they've just introduced throttling for all?
Welcoming the move, the chief executive of music industry trade body the BPI, Geoff Taylor, said that digital piracy posed "a real threat to the UK's creative industries". "Today is a step forward that should help the legal digital market to grow for consumers," he said.

Geoff, bless him, can't really explain why blocking access to Rapidshare would "help the legal market grow", because he knows in his heart that there's precious little linkage between reducing unlicensed filesharing (even if such a thing were possible) and persuading people to pay seven quid for the Dolly Rockers album.

Indeed, for the RIAA and the BPI, the war on piracy has long since borne any real connection to the industry the bodies purport to represent, and has instead become a religious crusade. If they want to continue to pour the millions their member companies have borrowed from the banks into a black hole, that's fine. But should an elected government really be enabling their fantasies to go further?