Now my dears, I realise I have been neglecting you due to my increasing workload at university. Fear not, for I have a number of treats and delights edible for your edification coming very soon. I’m even killing two birds with one stone as I intend to put my first Spark (Reading Uni student newspaper) on here as a blog post, I’ll come to more detail on that later, now something much more vital –
YOUR INTERNET IS BEING CUT OFF!
Yes, my friends, that is the stark warning that you may (but probably won’t) be getting through your post box (well, not if the Royal Mail strikes continue) very soon as the now defunct French ‘three-strikes’, or as they called it there ‘tres fúckups’, policy to combat illegal file-sharing will shortly become law.
Yes, clutch your keyboards in horror as I elaborate. This policy, which as I said was briefly introduced and swiftly chucked out in France, means that if you are caught torrenting, downloading, file sharing or even simply holding a microphone up to a radio (I expect) once, twice, three times the charm and you will lose your internet connection. Ironic then that the man in the government advocating this through mouthfuls of wine (courtesy of music tycoon David Geffen) is none other than Peter Mandelson, the twice disgraced, twice resigned, ‘voice of the people (in the music industry’)’. I would very much like to see this policy applied to government disgraces and watch him tumble.
What does this mean for you and me, well exactly as it says on the tin. You will lose your internet connection for a variable amount of time (most likely dependent on the scale of the “offence”) but you will have the right to appeal, of course, and go through all manner of tedious bureaucracy and costs before you might be able to watch bad Woody Allen impressions on YouTube again. For ISPs, it means it becomes a legal requirement for them to turn over the data of suspected file-sharers, the slightest implication of illicit activities (which, as we know, can be perfectly legitimate) means an entirely different type of tedium reserved especially for the providers, who then have to backtrack their records and drag up who was using the IP address at the time and all manner of things from their voluminous plethora of data, all of which will cost a lot of employee time and money. Then there’s the government body to monitor and manage these cases, and the cost of an entirely new branch of Ofcom is added to the mix. From what I can gather, none of these costs are going to be covered by the entertainment industry, who are pushing their considerable weight around to get these policies in place. Now, you’ve hopefully noticed that every mention of cost has been emblazoned with an extra layer of black gloss to point out just how much these proposals will cost and, given how taxes work, the British taxpayer will be fitting the bill to assist what could be their own prosecution.
Now, many of you will gasp with horror at this, and rightfully so, but(just as an aside) I do hope many of you have the good sense to not start beating the “internet access should be a human right drum”. I, personally, don’t think that access to the internet should be a human right for one very simple reason, it’s a commodity, a product, and entirely non-essential. Human rights, by the very nature and, indeed, definition, dictate the basic needs of each and every human being to survive, maintain dignity, be free and unrepressed. What possible liberty do you think is being taken away by not being able to add another inane comment to some viral video? If we start adding unnecessary shit to the requirements of human rights then how far are we willing to go? Should, under that same logic, mobile phones become a human right? A computer (Interesting to note that right to web access requires, indeed demands, that access to a web-enabled device of some manner to be available under the same right)? An iPod? Camera? TV?
Don’t think for a moment that I am supporting the government on the human rights issue, because my argument works both ways. The internet can’t be a human right because it’s a product, something you can buy or not buy, take it or leave it, we don’t (necessarily) need it. However, if this is true then the government shouldn’t, they apparently will but nevertheless, have any control or power to cut it off due to misuse. I know that Finland has just made 1Mb broadband a human right, but this is a mistake, I feel, reaching deep into the depth of the slippery slope.
I can’t imagine, for a moment, that ISPs are taking this lying down. Because for each and every penny, second and manpower that put in, just to fulfil their now legal obligations, they are potentially losing a customer. It is purely counter-productive for them because they have no way of making money from this and will inevitably lose a customer (I don’t imagine that the ‘criminal’ will be forced to still pay their ISPs for internet that they can’t use). Ofcom surely don’t want to have to deal with the complaints from parents demanding that their internet be restored (possibly so that they can do their job) after their teenager torrented an episode of ‘Family Guy’. There is also an enormously high risk of false positives here as it is painfully difficult to track filesharing, which is why many do it knowing full well the risk of prosecution, leading to a lot of innocent people without a web connection. The odds of getting caught are so low, and I take it that success and prosecution targets at the new department will be so high (in an attempt to justify the cost no doubt) that there’s a risk of the body getting a bit slap-dash with trying to make only genuine prosecutions. I may be wrong.
And amongst all the crap that these proposals create, who’s happy? Not the voters, not the consumers, not the ISPs, not the entertainment industry (despite what they’ll tell you, every illegally downloaded track does not equate to one lost sale) when they realise the flaw of this plan, not the government having to deal with the execution, or the backlash, of this. Nobody, well except the tycoon who (convenientally) took Mandelson on holiday just before Lord Peter started advocating three-strikes. Of course, we are taking food right out of the mouth of these billionaires, they are being forced to live in abject poverty because of you thieving bastards. How could you be so cruel? He’s down to regular caviar!
I am not advocating illegal downloading, filesharing and torrenting as the right thing to do. But just look at the incredible lengths that our elected government is going to simply to satisfy, essentially, one man. Isn’t this report simply highlighting how easily our elected representatives can be bought if your wallet’s big enough, Mandelson is a blatant illustration of this. Politicians hardly represent the moral high-ground when it comes to not paying for things, but that is no matter, the point is that any intelligent person in the government can see, simply from observation, that these plans are an exercise in futility and simply pandering to the big cash monster enrapturing them all that is the entertainment industry, forcing them to look as though they’re doing something (Geffen is coming, look busy).
Copyright infringement, on an industrial scale that profits the wrong people, deserves prosecution. Watching a few episodes of a TV show online does not. The internet is not the government’s to cut off, nor our own to claim it as a right. Our leaders should not so easily bought, nor should we have to fit the bill for it.