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Three Strikes?

August 25, 2009

Back in May you may recall the French government said “Oui” to a new and strict set of anti-piracy laws. These laws, which in my view are unworkable, allow a sort of “three strikes and you’re out” approach to piracy offenders. It’s simple; first a government agency dispatches a strongly worded email, then a letter. If the piracy persists, the pirate is disconnected from the internet for a year.

While I don’t condone piracy, I have some major concerns with the French policy.

As the recent Conficker worm has so aptly demonstrated, there is a large majority of the world that has little control over their IT infrastructure. Reports from France are already coming in of people being disconnected after hackers remotely hijacked their personal bandwidth. Stealing bandwidth doesn’t even have to be sophisticated. Most can be hijacked via unsecured wireless networks. France is proving it has the wrong law, targeted at the wrong people.

While many will be assuming this doesn’t affect them, that may be dangerously complacent. Anyone with teenagers will know that free music is a huge temptation, it’s also nothing new. Under these laws all it takes is a few downloads, regardless of value, and if you work from home your business could get some major disruption.

Thankfully the law is only in France. Over this side of the lake we are a little more pragmatic. ‘Les rosbifs’ surely wouldn’t be so silly as to adopt such an unworkable law?

Sadly not, governments all over the world are being put under incredible pressure from the RIAA (Recording Industry of America), a self elected quango made up predominantly by the “big four” (EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner). The RIAA currently has legal proceedings against BT Ireland and cable company UPC Ireland to force them to adopt the policy.

Even in the UK, Hull ISP Karoo has got into a lot of hot water by adopting this policy and enforcing it with some gusto. Karoo have actively been disconnecting users, forcing its customers into an agreement not to infringe copyright and charging for reconnection on the second and third offence. After a serious amount of bad press of what is in effect a policy of presumed guilt, Karoo has now softened its stance. The really concerning fact is Karoo has a complete monopoly in the Hull region.

All of this is happening in spite of the European Parliament rejecting the concept of a “Three Strikes” policy, as access to the internet is now viewed as a fundamental right. While the recently published Digital Britain report suggests that “there is evidence that most people who receive a notification stop unlawful file-sharing” it makes no mention of any proposal to curb piracy by limiting net access.

Hopefully the UK will hold firm and throw out these ridiculous proposals. However I am afraid to say it’s probably just a matter of time until our technophobic officials and litigation scared ISPs concede to the pressure of the industry.

From → Web Tech

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