Prime Minister responds to online petition asking that he abandon plans by Lord Mandelson to ban individual file-sharers from the Internet, saying that he finds it “very hard to see how this could be deemed proportionate except in the most extreme – and therefore probably criminal – cases.”
It turns out sometimes petitions do work. Such is the case with a UK e-petition created a while back for consideration by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and which he just recently responded to.
The e-petition, apparently part of a more simplified effort to convey public opinion as part of a long tradition of petitioning the govt for action, concerns controversial plans by Business Secretary Lord Mandelson to disconnect file-sharers from the Internet.
It asks that the Prime Minister abandon this strategy, warning of the danger of having ISPs monitor network traffic for signs of copyright infringement in flagrant disregard of personal privacy and free speech.
The e-petition reads:
The use of P2P is neither illegal nor exclusive to copyright theft. Many free software providers use this form of distribution, as does the BBC’s iPlayer. If citizens are innocent until proven guilty, ISP’s would be forced to monitor internet usage to ensure that no copyrighted material is being transferred. This flagrant disregard for privacy is comparable to forcing the Post Office to search through parcels for photocopied documents or mixtape cassettes. Such requirements would place enormous strain on ISP’s whilst failing to prevent the distribution of copyrighted material through hidden IP’s, http or ftp. Who is punished in the case of shared family connections? The increasing role of the internet in access to society should not be underestimated. Cutting off households deprives families of education, government services and freedom of speech. We do not see this as a fitting punishment, nor do we believe the breaches in privacy involved to be justifiable under copyright law.
The PM’s office has now published its response, and it’s seemingly taken their concerns to heart.
First and foremost it says that the Government will not disconnect file-sharers from the Internet, saying that “it is very hard to see how this could be deemed proportionate except in the most extreme – and therefore probably criminal – cases.”
It will, however, reserve some powers obliging ISPs to apply “technical measures” that might include throttling, a data cap, or temporary Internet account suspension, so it’s not entirely toothless.
However, it adds that if technical measures are required to achieve a desired decrease in illegal file-sharing that “we would need a rapid and robust route of appeal available to all consumers.”
Also important is that it won’t require ISPs to monitor network traffic for signs of copyright infringement, and emphasizes that it is the uploader, he who shares copyrighted material, and not the downloader that is targeted in these cases.
“We are not requiring ISPs to monitor for unlawful file-sharing,” it says. “Nor are we proposing that ISPs look at what users download in order to combat piracy.”
“Under the legislation, it is the rights holders who will identify cases of alleged copyright infringement, not the ISPs.”
It remains to be seen precisely what technical measures it plans to implement, but at least – for now anyways – disconnection seems to be off the table.
Sadly though, it’s fairly obvious to all, or to file-sharers at least, that any plans they come up with, short of DPI, will have no fundamental effect on piracy or P2P aside from targeting the naive and unsuspecting.