Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Feargal Sharkey calls for calm

In the light of the sudden and clumsy Geffen Yacht proposals for punishing unlicensed filesharers, Feargal Sharkey popped up on the BBC Five O'Clock News Hour to counsel for calm.

These proposals, he stressed, were just for discussion, not actual rules. It's just proposals. Nobody was saying anyone should be banned permanently from the internet for breaking the rules.

Why was Sharkey suddenly popping up to do the Treasury's job for them? Obviously, he has a point: Nobody is saying anyone should be banned from the net for good. But that's a bit of a faux defence. What is being proposed is temporary exclusion from the internet; Sharkey is trying to make things sound reasonable by stressing that there's no proposal for something worse.

It's like someone proposing amputation for theft, and a government spokesperson trying to make the ideas sound reasonable by saying "let's make it clear, nobody is talking about executions."

For UK music, treating these ideas as if they're actually quite light proposals makes sense - if you pitch this as part of a discussion (but wasn't there already a discussion taking place?) rather than rule making, people might be a bit more relaxed about the ideas; Sharkey makes soft noises about how the idea of temporary exclusion is only intended as a last resort - but how can you be sure that's how the rules would be used when they're in place? (At least until the ECHR strikes the rules down as unlawful, at massive expense to us all.)