Lord Erroll: Government can’t cut off file-sharers

Lord Erroll has called for Government plans to cut-off file-sharers to be scrapped.

Lord Erroll: Government can't cut off file-sharers

The proposal to potentially disconnect persistent file-sharers are part of the controversial Digital Economy Bill that’s currently passing through Parliament.

Lord Erroll – a cross-bench peer who was a prominent figure in the Lords’ inquiry into personal internet safety, which concluded the internet was becoming a “virtual Wild West” – claims the Government’s plans are simply unworkable.

“The Government is saying we’re going to have to do something that sounds good,” he told PC Pro. “It keeps introducing legislation for PR reasons.

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“We can’t be throttling back the speed of people’s internet connections, let alone cutting them off. It completely destroys the Government’s objective to cut costs by delivering 100% of its services online in the very near future.”

Lord Erroll claims that file-sharing is so widespread, the Government could end up cutting-off swathes of connections if the plans reached the statute book.

“There are 7.2 million people file-sharing, according to industry figures. If only one in ten have their broadband connection throttled back, that’s still an awful lot of people. I personally think that throttling connections and suspension should be removed from the bill.”

The peer claims the current system of prosecutions is a sufficient deterrent. “You can disincentivise file-sharers by prosecuting a few. It’s like locking up burglars – it does frighten the majority.”

Copyright calamity

Lord Erroll also has grave concerns over plans to give the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, the power to change copyright law without consulting Parliament. The controversial Clause 17 would give Ministers the right to amend the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, potentially paving the way for measures such as greater surveillance of internet connections to tackle file-sharing.

The clause has already met with fierce opposition from internet firms including Google, eBay and Yahoo, who sent a joint open letter to Lord Mandelson, urging him to reconsider the clause.

“For a Minister to do anything [to copyright law], probably under pressure, is wrong in our democratic system,” Erroll said. “It’s for Parliament to decide laws. You can’t give that kind of power to the Civil Service.”

Erroll said the legislation needs to be given further consideration. “Thinking about it for another six months isn’t going to make a big difference, and we might get it right.”

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