Professor: ISPs should not be “internet cops”

The proposed “three strikes” system of excluding illegal filesharers from the internet is flawed, according to a law professor.

The suggested process involves warning illegal filesharers on a first offence, temporarily suspending internet access on a second and permanent termination of their contract on a third. A similar system has already been agreed in Japan, and the government is now considering adopting such a scheme in this country.

Speaking at the London School of Economics, Professor Lilian Edwards of the University of Southampton said that suing illegal filesharers in the past had proven to be “slow, expensive and counter productive,” and that three strikes is a similarly flawed approach.

“My main worry here is about due process. We are talking about removal of access to the internet of what could be a high percentage of the country. There won’t be a public trial, there won’t be an impartial judge,” warned Edwards.

“They are providers of internet services, they are not internet cops. It has to be said that removal of access to the internet looks like a criminal sanction.”

Dodging the law

The government has said that it would rather avoid legislating against illegal filesharers, but industry has failed to solve the problem itself.

A voluntary regulation system would be preferred over statutory legislation, said Adrian Brazier of the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, as passing law is “hard work”.

“It’s of great benefit to government because we don’t have to go through the process of legislating. It’s a lot of hard work. Unfortunately industry hasn’t come up with the goods on this one,” said Brazier, speaking at the London School of Economics. “We need to start considering regulating.”

However, there is still time for industry to self-regulate and pause the launch of a government consultation process. Failing such an intervention, it is hoped that legislation will be passed by April 2009, claimed Brazier.

“If there is a voluntary agreement that has sufficient critical mass on each side then essentially we have said we will press the pause button.”

Brazier also explained that this legislation would not necessarily consist of a three strikes process, but that it was certainly one of the options it would be considering, along with filtering, third-party organisations working between ISPs and rightsholders and a “do nothing” approach.

“We are genuinely interested in what people have to say. The plan is that such a consultation document will go out in the spring,” he said.

Such a system would require the cooperation of all ISPs in order to be effective, claims Edwards, otherwise those banned from one ISP would simply switch to another supplier. In Japan, the scheme has the backing of four ISPs, representing the vast majority of broadband connections in the country.

Read Barry Collins’ opinion on the proposed three-strikes process here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.