Should Illegal downloaders be cut off from the internet?
Last updated: March 2, 2017
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.
These people are breaking the law and need to be punished.
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.
The music and film industries are suffering due to file-sharing.
This needs to be stopped otherwise the music industry may be harmed irreparably, curtailing the development of new music and films.
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.
Cutting web access is the most viable way to stop pirates
There are many legal ways to get music and film for free
It is a big problem, too many people are file-sharing
Infringement of human rights
The Open Rights group have claimed these new plans are a “curtailment of people’s freedom of expression.” [[http://www.openrightsgroup.org/]]
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?
It is not fair the ISPs are being forced to police their customers
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.
File-sharing will still happen, despite these plans
Stopping their internet is not the way to get through to file-sharers
Many more could suffer, not just the perpetrator
It will also affect people whose connections have been hacked.
Lord Mandelson has pushed this plan through with a personal objective
Mandelson has gone against the expert opinions of former communication minister Lord Carter and two secretaries of state by putting this proposal forward.
File-sharers buy media too