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Innocent Illegal UK Broadband ISP File Sharing Suspects Must Pay to Appeal

Posted: 01st Feb, 2010 By: MarkJ
isp piracyThe Labour governments controversial Business Secretary, Lord Peter Mandelson, has tabled a new UK Digital Economy Bill amendment (200A) that could force those "suspected" of illegal P2P file sharing to pay for their own appeal.

The amendment, as spotted by Friday's Telegraph newspaper, is just one of many changes that make the bill look even worse than when it was originally announced. Interestingly the Telegraph claims that Lord Faulkner was "concerned" by the change, though the nature of his words seem supportive.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester, speaking in the House of Lords on 20th January, said:

"I turn finally to Amendments 200A and 206A, which have been tabled by my noble friend Lord Mandelson. Amendment 200A is intended to clarify the candidates for making contributions towards the costs of the online infringement of copyright provisions. It makes it clear that this applies only to copyright owners and internet service providers, ensuring that the power is no broader than it needs to be. It also allows for the possibility that subscribers may be asked for a contribution towards the costs of the appeals process."

Sadly amendment 200A has already been "agreed" as part of last week’s House of Lords debate (26th January). However it is not known how much "suspects" will be charged to appeal their innocence, which is currently subject to further consultation.

200A: Clause 15, page 16, line 34, at end insert-

"( ) Any provision specified under subsection (1) must relate to payment of contributions by one or more of the following only-

(a) copyright owners;

(b) internet service providers;

(c) in relation to copyright infringement disputes or subscriber appeals within the meaning of section 124E or 124J, subscribers."

Amendment 200A agreed.

Those choosing to view politicians as self-serving bureaucrats, the type who only care about their own wealth and appear to be utterly detached from reality, now have yet another reason to support that perspective. Many of the lords also seem ignorant to both the technical and economic problems inherent within the bill itself.

IP's cannot reliably be used to identify an offending individual and it is surely wrong to charge people for trying to defend their own implied innocence (this assumes that the guilty won't use an appeals process) against unreliable data. Likewise there is a perception that ISPs are cash rich. Here's one case in point example from the same House of Lords session (26th Jan).

Labour Lord Young of Norwood Green:

"We are saying that there should be an incentive on internet service providers to ensure that their part of the bargain should be to have the most efficient and cost-effective process. Which way this will go is an even bet. It is reasonable to say that we do not think that these costs will be passed on, although we do not think that we could find a way of prohibiting that. Our view is that, in a competitive environment, ISPs are capable of absorbing those costs, although I confess that in reality only time will tell."

The structure of an Internet access market is clearly not one that Lord Young and others have bothered to research. A typical broadband ISP has to invest colossal amounts of cash to build its network and, in order to remain competitive, its profit margin per customer will be tiny (just a few pounds or less in the case of some larger players; economics of scale). Hence any rise, even in the order of only a few pence, is damaging and likely to be passed on.

Some of the largest providers have also had to subsidise their service from other profit making (non-ISP) parts of the business purely to stay competitive. This is not a cash rich industry; one quick glance at a few quarterly financial reports will tell you that.
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