Why you could lose your broadband connection for doing absolutely nothing wrong

ethernet-cable-175x122How nice to have friends in high places. Having failed to convince Digital Britain author Lord Carter to cut off the connections of alleged illegal file sharers, the creative industry has somehow managed to convince Lord Mandelson and the new Minister for Digital Britain, Stephen Timms, that it’s a good idea after all.

Why you could lose your broadband connection for doing absolutely nothing wrong

Hence today’s announcement that the Government will now urge Ofcom to suspend people’s broadband connections as a “last resort”. But on what evidence will ISPs be forced to clip your connection?

Rights holders will be required to identify the IP addresses of people they claim to have caught file sharing, and pass those details to the relevant ISP (as they do currently). But here comes the clincher. “The standard of evidence required from rights holders should, as a minimum, establish an infringement on the balance of probabilities,” the Government’s own consultation on legislation for illegal P2P file sharing states. So no innocent until proven guilty – a high likelihood that you’re in the wrong is all that the rights holders need to press the ISPs to cut off your broadband.

Astonishingly, the Government claims that these plans have the full approval of consumers and the six ISPs it bound to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on file sharing earlier this year. “The template used by the BPI in the MOU trial should serve as a model for this as it has proved satisfactory to all the ISPs in the trial and has not provoked any particular concerns by consumers affected,” the consultation states.

That’s not what TalkTalk – one of the six ISPs involved – is saying this morning. “The evidence that is used to identify offenders is unreliable due to the prevalence of multi-users per account and Wi-Fi-hijacking and so will result in innocent customers being cut-off from broadband,” says TalkTalk, which branded the proposed legislation a potential “breach of human rights”.

And Which? has been running a long and admirable campaign against the heavy-handed law firms employed by the rights holders, which the watchdog claims have been “bullying” innocent people into paying hefty settlements for offences they say they didn’t commit.

The Government is inviting interested parties to respond to its proposals by 29 September, by emailing mike.klym@bis.gsi.gov.uk. We’ll be sending the Government our response to this ill thought-out, knee-jerk legislation. We hope you’ll do likewise.

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