Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?

Internet users who persistently swap copyrighted material on the web will have their connections slowed down or even stopped by their internet service providers, (ISPs) Lord Mandelson has announced.
The decision is an unexpected one after the government decided in June to let communications watchdog Ofcom monitor file-sharers. The continual offenders would be punished with a warning letter and eventual court action. The government set a target of reducing the problem by 70% and claims these new plans will help them reach that target much faster.

Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
Yes because...

These people are breaking the law and need to be punished.

By using file-sharing technology like BitTorrent and sites like Pirate Bay, people are illegally distributing and receiving copyrighted goods which they have not paid for. This is stealing and a crime which should be stopped quickly. Slowing down or stopping file-sharers’ internet is the best way to do this, as it can be done without having to go through the courts and warning letters will still be sent before the connection is severed.

No because...

The (il)legality of file sharing is still a legally hazy area, with legislation far from homogeneous around even the European Union. For example, in several countries only the act of uploading unlicensed copyrighted files is illegal. Legislation used to combat file sharing is often not geared to these new technologies, making court cases long and complicated.

Because of this hazy status of the purported crime, it seems inappropriate to put a complicated cut-off process in place before all the details surrounding file sharing technology and the law are finalised.

The government's assertion that this is the "best way to do this" is baseless. Severing an internet connection requires dissolving a legal contract between the user and a third party, the internet service provider. This is not an easy process, as well as unjust, illustrated below in the Opposition's point on internet service providers.

Moreover, the novel nature of both the punishment (cut-offs) and the crime (file sharing), as shown above, means that this is hardly a case where courts can be bypassed in convicting criminals. Bypassing courts requires both crime and punishment to be completely clear, and with the case law worked out into the details so the judicial bureaucracy can apply it. This is not the case here: new jurisprudence is added on a regular basis as important court cases are concluded. For example, it is unclear whether the user of the computer or the owner of the internet connection is responsible. In comparison to other cases of bypassing courts, such as speeding tickets, file sharing fails the test.

Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
Yes because...

The music and film industries are suffering due to file-sharing.

File-sharers are directly responsible for damaging the music industry. Per Sundin, CEO of Universal Music said the decline in music revenues in the past 8 years can be fully attributed to illegal file sharing.[[http://bestdownloadsguide.com/?paged=2]]Worldwide music sales fell about 7 percent last year, said John Kennedy, chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Meanwhile, growth in downloads from iTunes, the biggest legitimate digital service, came to a halt.[[http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/15/technology/15iht-digital.4-408839.html]]
This needs to be stopped otherwise the music industry may be harmed irreparably, curtailing the development of new music and films.

No because...

The Government uses claims and research supported by and affiliated with the music and film industries, to support her claim of damages done. These organisations have an interest in over-reporting and exaggerating the numbers, precisely to prompt legislation like the Government is putting forward at this very moment.

The Opposition holds, in contrast, that (a) the decline in sales of the media industry can be attributed to many other factors than illegal file sharing, (b) the music industry's definition of damages done is faulty, and (c) that even if the claims have some base in reality, something we believe to be not the case, increased enforcement would not have any effect on the damages to the film industry.

(a) To assume that the coincident rise of file sharing and decline of the media industry has a causal link is wrong. Several other important developments have a direct link to the argument made by the Government. The habits of media consumers have changed. They use their 'own', bought, media (such as bought CDs and DVDs) less frequently, and have shifted more to on-demand services like TV-channels.

Another development is the wide availability of professional grade production equipment on contemporary home computers, which enables a greater range of people to produce and manufacture their own media. This increases competition and draws revenue from large, traditional media companies to smaller, unaffiliated ones whose revenues are not reported in the figures the Government cites.

(b) The damages done by file sharing, as reported by the music industry, are wholly inaccurate. These figures are a combination of missed growth targets, extrapolated estimates, and pure fiction, made to influence public opinion. What really are these damages? Let us analyse them in more detail.

For one to do €10 damage to Sony Music by file sharing, they would need to (1) make up their mind to procure some music (say, a single of "Oops, I did it again" worth €5). (2) have been willing to pay the in-store price of "Oops, I did it again". (3) then instead download it illegally. Why the double damages? Taken as a whole, a file sharing network downloads and uploads exactly as much. So, for every person downloading "Oops, I did it again" illegally, on average, they facilitate one other person in downloading "Oops, I did it again" illegally.

(Note that it has yet to be seen that someone's Up/Down ratio has been used in a court case to determine the fine/punishment. The fines are mostly set by Sony Music et al. themselves.)

These three requirements are often not present when calculating the damages done for a purported criminal engaged in file sharing. For example, (1) is not present when someone sees a file offered for download they have never heard of, then, on a whim, decide to download it. (2) is most often violated - the vast majority of file sharers would not pay €50 for a video game or € 10 for a DVD they now get for free.

All of these arguments invalidate the claims the music industry has to any damages, or at least invalidates the amounts and methods reported in current court cases. This means that the Government's argument of solving a great economical evil by their plan does not hold.

(c) Increased enforcement will never put the illegal file sharing networks out of operation, which is what is necessary to generate more revenue for the music industry IF their claims are true (which (b) argues is not the case). These networks are global, the music industry is not (e.g. servers hosted in rogue states), and the technologically adept file sharers will find new, undetectable methods of sharing.

Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
Yes because...

Cutting web access is the most viable way to stop pirates

The plan to slow down or stop internet connections is the most economic and practical way to deal with file-sharers. Many illegal downloaders are young people and this plan will prevent the offenders from receiving a criminal record

No because...

its not that efficient. what's to stop someone just using a different computer? it is impossible to police the entire Internet, a huge number of people download pirated software, you would end up having to disconnect so many computers from the Internet that it would significantly drain the number of people using the Internet and adversely affect every business that relies on the Internet to exist.

Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
Yes because...

There are many legal ways to get music and film for free

Many legal services are available which allow you to download video and audio for free. Most TV channels have an online on-demand service. There are similar services available for music, including Nokia’s Come with Music service, which allows owners of specific Nokia phones to download unlimited music, free of charge. Persistent file-sharers are halting the development and growth of these legal services.

No because...

The services are much more limited and less convenient, where it is possible to obtain almost anything off filesharing and bit torrent sites, mostly without any fuss other than waiting for it to download. Many people also prefer downloading something from a community of users than rely directly on a corporation.

Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
Yes because...

It is a big problem, too many people are file-sharing

The film industry is losing a significant amount of money. For example, the most pirated film so far this year is Watchmen, with 16.9 million people watching it for free. The precipitous decline at box offices has been blamed on illegal file-sharing. [[BigChampagne, Box Office Mojo.com]]

No because...

Redundant with "The music and film industries are suffering due to file-sharing," above.

Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
No because...

Infringement of human rights

Stopping or slowing down a customer’s internet connection is an infringement on their freedom of expression and fundamental rights.
The Open Rights group have claimed these new plans are a “curtailment of people’s freedom of expression.” [[http://www.openrightsgroup.org/]]

Yes because...

Throwing someone in jail is stripping someone of their rights. The end result is, illegal downloading is... well... ILLEGAL! And when you do illegal things you lose your privileges.

Besides, why should we care about their rights when they take away the right of the record company that produced the music? They have a right to get paid, but illegal downloaders dont care, so why should we care about their rights?

Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
No because...

It is not fair the ISPs are being forced to police their customers

The government proposes to make the private service provider responsible for cutting off internet access to their users, as inferred from their proposal to bypass courts above. Depending on internet service providers (ISPs) to police their users is wrong because it is the government's responsibility to enforce the law, not any private service provider's.

ISPs are angry that they are being asked to police users and foot the cost of this enforcement. A spokeswoman for Virgin Media said that was a, “heavy-handed, punitive regime that will simply alienate customers.” [[http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8219652.stm]]

Specifically, the costs of the infrastructure to monitor (illegal) downloading, as well as salaries of the legal and technical staff needed for a proper cut-off process, are being shouldered by ISPs themselves. To illustrate how unjust this is, it can be considered akin to weapons manufacturers being taxed to compensate murder. These costs are unfair to the ISPs, and are at the same time a societal cost as they are passed on to the consumers of said ISPs.

Yes because...
Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
No because...

File-sharing will still happen, despite these plans

Stopping internet connections will not stop file sharing from happening. TalkTalk’s director of regulation, Andrew Heaney said: “Disconnecting alleged offenders will be futile given that it is relatively easy for determined file-sharers to mask their identity or their activity to avoid detection." [[http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8219652.stm]]

Yes because...

Just like sending someone to jail for murder doesn't make murder stop. Nothing will ever stop a culture, but their are actions we can take to simmer the culture down

Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
No because...

Stopping their internet is not the way to get through to file-sharers

The ISP TalkTalk believes “persuasion not coercion” is the way to stop file-sharing and encourage pushing the legal alternatives and educating people rather than the draconian method of stopping internet connections. [[ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8219652.stm%5D%5D

Yes because...
Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
No because...

Many more could suffer, not just the perpetrator

Stopping web connections will not just punish the file-sharer but all those who share the connection. Many children download material illegally without their parents knowing.

It will also affect people whose connections have been hacked.

Yes because...

Time to ground the kids and finally do their job

Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
No because...

Lord Mandelson has pushed this plan through with a personal objective

Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group has accused Lord Mandelson of basing this plan on “private conversations.” The business secretary dined with David Geffen, co-founder of DreamWorks and founder of Asylum Records while he holidayed recently in Corfu. Although a Business, Innovation and Skills spokesperson has denied these rumours and said there was no connection with this meeting and Lord Mandelson’s decision.
Mandelson has gone against the expert opinions of former communication minister Lord Carter and two secretaries of state by putting this proposal forward.
[[http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/aug/25/internet-file-sharing-digitalbritain]]

Yes because...
Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
No because...

File-sharers buy media too

A study by US research firm Frank N. Maid and Associates found that file-sharers actually go to the cinema more and buy and rent more DVDs than their non file-sharing counterparts. [[http://revolutionmagazine.com/news/929484/Music-thiefs-spend-movies-probably/]]

Yes because...


Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?

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