Thursday, October 29, 2009

UK to Block Web Access in Effort to Control Piracy

The UK is to introduce laws forcing ISP's to cut off internet access to illegal file sharers. This will be a last resort after warning letters and a first stage of reducing internet speeds.

Here's what I say. For years the big players in music and film have charged excessively for music and video. CD's doubled the price of an album, even though they were cheaper to produce. DVD's are much cheaper to produce than video tapes yet the cost is similar, if not more. They have trouble getting the providers of illegal content, so focus the laws on the users. And now the technology is available for the ordinary user to bypass the artificially high prices, they are crying it ain't fair.

Sell your content at a realistic price that actually reflects production costs and most of us will be happy to pay. You don't like being ripped off. Neither do we.

Now, apart from the moral and legal implications, there are the technical facts. It is already easy to encrypt downloads. There are already networks that give anonymity.
So how do they propose enforcing the law? If your data is encrypted, you must be downloading illegally? If you download large files you must be doing something illegal?

Well no, this cannot be the criteria for deciding guilt. Many legitimate programs are now hundreds of megabytes. Cloud computing means people back up huge amounts of data to the web. Online gaming eats at bandwidth. And many homes have multiple computers (We have four and my son plays online games on his Xbox for many hours a week.) It seems we are being given the technology but governments are intervening to restrict its (legal) use.

And besides, if I get a letter from my ISP, before there is any penalty I can switch ISP and wait my first letter from them.

This has not been thought through. Whatever technology is used to try to catch file sharers, a way round it will soon be found. Just look at how quickly video encryption was cracked. And as I already said if the criteria are to be large downloads or encrypted data, then they lose the moral high ground. The innocent will be presumed guilty. Especially in a household of four where only one illegally downloads, yet all have their internet access cut.

The only fair way is a change in social attitudes away from glorifying huge profits at the expense of the consumer to reasonable profits and reasonable prices that by their nature discourage theft. Why would I want to wait two or more hours to download a film at the risk of prosecution if I can go down the video store and buy it for £5, and be watching it in 20 minutes or less?

Which introduces another, often ignored point. Piracy actually encourages sales rather than reducing them. Because many people who download music and video from illegal sites often go on to buy the original content. Yes, I know it sounds silly, but they do actually want to own the original in its nice packaging and on a CD or DVD that will not deteriorate over time. But they do not want to risk £10 or £20 on an original they might not enjoy. Back to price again! So they download an album and if they like it, they buy it.

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