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By: MarkJ - 21 November, 2009 (7:14 AM)
ispatalktalk logoThe UK Internet Service Providers Association ( ISPA ) and broadband ISP TalkTalk ( The Carphone Warehouse , Tiscali , AOL etc. ) have both come out in strong opposition to some of yesterdays Digital Economy Bill measures (original news), which have been designed to tackle illegal downloading.

The Bill proposes that the Government can introduce new measures to punish people they think are infringing copyright without having to prove their case in court. This so-called secondary legislation appears to side-step any debate, oversight or public scrutiny.

Both are particularly concerned that the proposals grant far too much control to the Secretary of State, who will have the power to make specific recommendations on costs and impose an obligation on ISPs to use technical sanctions. The ISPA believes that an independent body would be a fairer way to assess these factors.

ISPA Secretary General, Nicholas Lansman, said:

"ISPA is extremely disappointed by aspects of the proposals to address illicit filesharing. This legislation is being fast-tracked by the Government and will do little to address the underlying problem.

Rather than focusing blindly on enforcement, the Government should be asking rightsholders to reform the licensing framework so that legal content can be distributed online to consumers in a way that they are clearly demanding."

TalkTalk's Boss, Charles Dunstone, comments:

"We don’t support copyright infringement in any way but we live in the real world and understand that no amount of policing and censorship will solve the problem. It doesn't matter how many websites are blocked, how many services are shut down or how many individuals are pursued, people will always find ways to access copyrighted content for free.

There is an army of 'Robin Hoods' out there developing tools which allow completely undetectable access to content. No amount of monitoring can spot it. Shut one service down and twenty will pop up in its place. As things stand, victims of Wi-Fi hijacking will be caught in the cross-hairs while the most persistent offenders will remain undetected.

Until now the proposed legislation could be best described as unwieldy and ill-conceived. In addition it now looks to deny people freedom of speech and infringe their basic human rights. Current legislation allows for people to be taken to court and a case proved against them before action is taken and that must be maintained."

ISPs believe that to reduce illegal filesharing, music and film fans must be encouraged back to legal services through education and by making content available in a form and at a price that people find acceptable. TalkTalk’s own research shows that over 85% of people think there is not enough legal music and film content available on the Internet at a fair price.

Dunstone has again reiterated his promise to only release customer details to rights holders following a court order, although ironically yesterdays Bill promised that details would only be released to copyright owners for further action "after obtaining a court order". TalkTalk added that they would refuse any request to cut-off customer accounts and take legal action to protect their users.

Meanwhile the ISPA has also raised concerns about the allocation of cost. Consistent with the principle of beneficiary pays, ISPA rejects an apportioning of costs and believes that rights holders should shoulder this burden including reimbursement of ISPs’ reasonable costs. Presently the copyright owners will only pay the cost of notification letters.

Mr Lansman said:

"For nearly ten years ISPs and law enforcement agencies have been cooperating based on a system of cost recovery in the UK. I find it very surprising that the Government’s own legislation – the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000) – considers it appropriate for ISPs to be reimbursed for costs incurred when assisting in serious criminal investigations, such as terrorism or kidnap, but not for costs incurred pursuing an alleged civil infringement on behalf of a commercial interest."

Both TalkTalk and the ISPA also oppose all of the new technical measures, which include the ability to slow a customers connection, block illegal sites and services or even cut-off user accounts, and have called for them to be dropped from the bill. Sadly we fear this is highly unlikely to happen as the government has proven unwilling to listen. It should be noted that ISPs do appear to support the notification / letter warning system.

UPDATE - 23rd November 2009

Thousands of people have signed a petition to overturn Internet piracy legislation after Stephen Fry used Twitter to alert people to the perils of the proposed law. Within 24 hours of Fry's tweet on Sunday morning the petition , originally lodged by Andrew Heaney of broadband firm TalkTalk , had passed 8,000.

Fry claims to have introduced Lord Mandelson – whose Digital Economy Bill contains the anti-piracy measures – to the internet when he showed him his first website in 1997. "Dear Mandy, splendid fellow in many ways, but he is SO WRONG about copyright," wrote Fry in a tweet on Sunday morning urging his followers to sign a petition on the No 10 website:


UPDATE - 23rd November 2009 (1:45pm)

Recorded music (EMI Music) sales are up 4.6% to £1.095 billion ($1.81 billion). Music publishing (EMI Music Publishing) sales are up 14.6% to £468 million ($773.83 million), which is partly because of increased licensing by online services.

Last month the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), a trade association for the British record industry, reported a record breaking year for UK singles with more than 117m sold to date (115.1m in 2008). Legal digital downloads via broadband ISPs are the primary reason and have rapidly overtaken sales of CD singles.

Most music companies would of course argue that they'd be growing even faster without illegal downloading as a problem. Never the less the market has hardly crashed.

UPDATE - 24th November 2009

UK ISP Be Broadband commented:

"We prefer a future that benefits from technology advances rather than trying to shut it down. We think the smart people in modern creative industries are the ones that are adapting to the new world. Rather than building big, expensive software that people can't afford, more people are making apps that cost little but offer great value and offer updates that illegal software can't. There are examples in other industries too, like music with legal downloads and streaming, or legal movie rental services through PCs and games consoles.

Our members have never asked us to police their service, and sadly don't have enough information to believe this system can work."

UK ISP Entanet commented (Darren Farnden):

"As we continue to be frustrated by the possibility of the additional technical measures, the fundamentally flawed process of identifying illegal file sharers by IP address and the high potential for incorrect allegations, we think this latest move raises a new concern. It’s now suggested that Mandelson and his successors will be able to amend copyright law as and when required in order to keep up with technological changes.

Whilst I understand the benefits that this would bring for copyright holders and the need to react quickly I am concerned that this basically results in Mandelson et al being able to change the law as and when they feel necessary without the Lords or MP’s being able to block the move. I thought Britain was a democracy! Maybe using the past tense is correct."

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