Filesharing plans ignore legal rights, claims Foster

The rights and wrongs of filesharing may still be very much up for debate, but Don Foster again confirmed that, if Lord Mandelson wants support for his “three strikes and you’re out” policy against filesharers, he won’t get it from the Lib Dems.

Lord Mandelson wants those suspected of illegal file sharing to have their bandwidth restricted or to be cut off from the Internet altogether. Mandelson claimed that young people downloading content for free was morally unsustainable.

Don Foster, who just last week was speaking out for live music performers (the clown’s the one on the left) has made clear the Lib Dems are not impressed. Don, Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary,  said:

“While illegal filesharing does serious damage to our creative industries, the Government is in danger of ignoring fundamental legal rights with this proposal.

“If people are involved in illegal filesharing, any sanction should be
decided through the usual legal process.

“This means that the presumption of innocent until proven guilty must apply.”

Don is holding to a line the Lib Dems have followed for well over a year: back in February 2008 he commented:

“We need to find a balance which allows rights holders to target the criminals raking in huge profits from this crime without threatening basic civil liberties or dramatically changing the relationship between internet service providers and users.”

Perhaps through a spirit of generosity, Mr Foster has chosen not to point out that any technical measures of the sort Mandelson is suggesting would be trivially easy for any serious pirate to get round and would be likely to affect only the casual filesharer (and their family). Nor did he mention the concerns both ISPs and the British security services have over the Government scheme.

As ISP TalkTalk has said

“The unintended consequence of Lord Mandelson’s plan will be to encourage more wi-fi and PC hi-jacking and expose more innocent people to being penalised.”

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  • Rod Crowley 29th Oct '09 - 1:06pm

    Is it really the case that there are “criminals raking in huge profits from this crime”? Not really convinced.

  • It hasn’t even been proved that ‘illegal filesharing does serious damage to our creative industries’. It may well threaten the hegemony of existing distribution companies, but that’s not the same thing.

    Cinema receipts are booming, live music and related merchandise is booming, and the average filesharer buys more music than he downloads.

    What’s at stake is the continued control of most media by a small number of huge media corporations. We didn’t support the sheet music companies when recorded music rendered them obsolete, we didn’t support scribes when the printing press rendered them obsolete, why support music and film companies that can’t adapt to new circumstances?

  • Andrew Suffield 29th Oct '09 - 7:16pm

    Every time a new technology has appeared (player pianos, compact cassette, VCRs, CD burners, internet file sharing), the media industries have screamed: “This is destroying our creative industries. Criminals are making huge profits and nobody is stopping them.”

    It was a lie all the other times; we proved this by doing nothing, and the prophesied collapse of the industry failed to occur. It’s a lie now. Can we please stop listening to them?

  • I think Mandy’s idea is stupid and unworkable from an implementation point of view, but the basic principle that people who create content are entitled to charge for it is important.

    Because, you know, if they can’t make money on it they won’t create any more of it.

    The point isn’t to end piracy per se, the point is to keep it to a manageable level in an age where pirating content is so trivially easy.

  • Andrew Suffield 30th Oct '09 - 10:27am

    And the best way to keep it to a manageable level is to give people what they want: direct downloads of unencumbered music and video at a reasonable price. itunes is the most effective system ever created for cutting down on illicit copying. The main reason why copying of films and TV is so widespread is because the media industry refuses to sell it.

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