Government plans to cut off illegal file sharers

Updated 11:50am The Government has announced draconian plans to cut off the broadband connection of illegal file sharers.

Government plans to cut off illegal file sharers

Barry Collins on why you could lose your broadband connection for doing absolutely nothing wrong

The Government’s own Digital Britain report, published earlier this summer, stopped short of stripping file sharers of their broadband connection.

It’s become clear there are widespread concerns that the plans as they stand could delay action, impacting unfairly upon rights holders

However, Digital Britain Minister Stephen Timms – who replaced Digital Britain report author Lord Carter last month – has been persuaded of the need to take urgent action by the film and music industry. “We’ve been listening carefully to responses to the consultation this far, and it’s become clear there are widespread concerns that the plans as they stand could delay action, impacting unfairly upon rights holders,” Timms claims.

In an echo of the French three-strikes-and-you’re-out scheme, individuals identified as file sharers will be sent warning letters before having their connection suspended if they persist.

“This does not necessarily mean that suspension would be used – this step would obviously be a very serious sanction as it would affect all members of a household equally, and might disrupt access to other communications, so it should be regarded as very much a last resort,” the Government claims in a statement.

“Accordingly a thorough examination of the proportionality and effectiveness of the measure (as with any of the other measures) would have to be undertaken before ISPs would be required to implement it, even if the decision to move to technical measures is taken.”

Measures “won’t work”

TalkTalk – one of the more vocal opponents of cutting off alleged file sharers – says the measures simply won’t work.

“Introducing measures such as disconnection at the instigation of the Secretary of State will sidestep proper scrutiny, likely breach fundamental human rights and result in innocent people being disconnected or, worse, prosecuted,” the ISP claims.

“What’s more, they will not work. Disconnecting alleged offenders will be futile given that it is relatively easy for determined filesharers to mask their identity or their activity to avoid detection.

“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.”

Robust evidence?

The new proposals will raise a number of questions, not least the issue of exactly who will be responsible for identifying and punishing alleged file sharers.

Until now, ISPs have largely acted at the behest of copyright owners. However, consumer watchdog Which reported one copyright law firm to legal authorities earlier this summer after claiming that it “bullied” innocent people “into paying compensation for something they didn’t do”.

In August, Which claimed to have discovered 20 people who were mistakenly targeted as illegal file-sharers by another law firm sending out threatening letters.

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