UK Minister Says “Three-Strikes” too Draconian

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham instead backs unspecified “technical measures.”

Back in January it was revealed for the first time that the UK govt had all but ruled out disconnecting repeat file-sharers from the Internet. Today Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has repeated that assertion at Music Week’s “Making Online Music Pay” conference.

He did confirm however, that the UK govt is preparing legislation to force ISPs to apply “technical solutions” to address the problem of repeat file-sharers.

“There will be many who don’t think a simple notification would be effective and we will reserve the powers to apply technical measures for persistent offenders,” he said. “Applying these measures will be a serious business, and not one we take lightly, but it is right that they are in place.”

“We intend to give the Office of Communications (Ofcom) powers to apply technical measures and we think that is the right option,” he later added. “The idea is for measures to be applied against individuals who are serial infringers. That is the proposal.”

It has yet to define who is a “serial infringer” and who will decide the guilt or innocence of accused file-sharers.

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said the govt doesn’t want to terminate file-sharers’ Internet connections now that the Internet has become as vital as other utilities like water and electricity.

He said that the highly anticipated Digital Britain report, due to be released June 16th, “is likely to include an obligation on ISPs to send out letters to people who are infringing copyright.”

“What Mr Burnham also said was there was the likelihood that the MoU would be backed up by new powers for Ofcom to impose ‘technical solutions’ for repeat offenders if that process of sending out letters was not effective enough,” added the spokesman.

What precisely the “technical solutions” will be is still unclear, but it’s likely to be connection speed throttling, data caps, or a combination of the two. The UK film and television industry recently called for the govt to force ISPs to institute pop-up windows warning users who visit file-sharing related websites.

Burnham also warned that ISPs and the music industry could solve the problem on their own, without govt intervention, if only they were to sit down and figure out a framework for cooperation to tackle the problem.

“Both sides must find a point of balance,” he said. “Don’t wait for the heavy hand of Government, do it now. If you wait for Government then that might be worse.”

Worse? Without govt oversight private business interests will determine who’s a file-sharer and who isn’t. The music industry may lot like it, but the Internet has become a vital utility necessary for full civic participation, and any efforts to hinder or prevent that ability without trial is far worse for UK society than any problems illegal file-sharing may pose.

Stay tuned.

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