Lord Mandleson, for it is he, shall herby presume you guilty until proven innocent.
And don’t expect any internet access while he’s at it.
Yes, the Digital Economy Bill has been published and in it is a proposal for those connections illegally sharing files to be cut off from the internet. I say connections because after all, in the vast majority of cases you don’t have a personal internet connection - you have a home or office connection.
I’ve already blogged on the national security issues this raises, so the next reason this plan is utterly unworkable is connection security. Simply, your average wi-fi connection is not that difficult to break into - and that is if there is any security in place at all. Many are totally open to the world.
So, just as with Operation Ore - where innocent people who had their credit cards cloned found themselves being forcefully arrested in dawn raids for being suspected paedophiles - this law will lead to innocent people having their internet cut off because they didnt install a wi-fi password.
For anyone who believes in some semblance of a fair legal process, such a scenario should send shivers down the spine. And that’s before I come onto the extreme invasion of privacy necessary to detect file sharing activity - more on that later.
It will come as no surprise I’m totally against this measure- it’s technologically naieve, bears no respect for privacy and panders to a few select groups desperate to presevere the same business model for creative content that existed before CD’s, let alone the internet.
You can add your signature to the 17,000 and counting who have already made clear they oppose this insane measure here http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/dontdisconnectus/
every year, i buy a poppy. normally i loose it, and buy another. i enjoy talking to the volunteers who brave the English winter to stand on street corners, inspired by their humility. such a seemingly small act which speaks volumes about the common humanity we all share.
but every year, particularly as i have become to engage more in the political process, i worry that we are beginning to see remembrance as simply an act of paying tribute to those who died, and not an excercise in honouring their memory. by that, I mean as fewer survivors of the wars which engulfed the world exist, we are seemingly less concered by the realities of war.
Spike Milligan’s account of his experience in the trenches is as joyful as it is soul-searchingly bleak. my own relatives who served, in particularly my grandad, have always been rather caged about talking about their experiences. in one rare conversation on the topic, my grandad simply said the number of friends he lost in battle was the one defining theme of all his memories.
it seems strange that, despite studying the both world wars in some detail, I struggle to recall any meaningful discussion of the actual frontlines. tactical errors at galipolli, international diplomacy at munich, the effect of the globa depression, the list goes on of areas i recall with some clarity. yet aside from odd bits of poetry, or a black and white photo, the most meaningful memory about the harrowing nature of conflict I have from school is when Edmund Blackadder et al went over the top.
With that in mind, I think it is worth reading this 2004 interview with Harry Patch, the last survivor of Passchendaele, who sadly passed away earlier this year. There’s also an audio interview with the Today programme, from 2005, here.
The final paragraph of the interview sums up what remembrance has come to mean for me:
“We’ve had 87 years to think what war is. To me, it’s a licence to go out and murder. Why should the British government call me up and take me out to a battlefield to shoot a man I never knew, whose language
I couldn’t speak? All those lives lost for a war finished over a table. Now what is the sense in that?”
Posted: November 11th, 2009
Tags: harry patch
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I often struggle to articulate why I wish for the likes of X Factor and Big Brother to be banished from our televisions forever. The role of television, as part of the very fabric of society, is one which both educates and appalls, inspires and irritates.
Recently I’ve been reading about Joseph McCarthy and his investigations into communism in 1950s America. The similarities between his prosecution of alleged ’subversives’ and the recent debate around terrorism has been something I have noticed on more than one occasion. Equally, the way public debate only challenged McCarthy only after a significant period of tolerance is something everyone involved in modern politics should take heed of.
Anyway, the delicate balance between TV, politics and the truth were much better described by Edward R. Murrow, the journalist who did so much to finally end McCarty’s reign of terror. Rather than summarise them, here is the text of his speech to what is now the the Radio Television Digital News Association’s Convention on October 15, 1958.
“This just might do nobody any good. At the end of this discourse a few people may accuse this reporter of fouling his own comfortable nest, and your organization may be accused of having given hospitality to heretical and even dangerous thoughts. But the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies and sponsors will not be shaken or altered. It is my desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television.
I have no technical advice or counsel to offer those of you who labor in this vineyard that produces words and pictures. You will forgive me for not telling you that instruments with which you work are miraculous, that your responsibility is unprecedented or that your aspirations are frequently frustrated. It is not necessary to remind you that the fact that your voice is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or understanding than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other. All of these things you know.
You should also know at the outset that, in the manner of witnesses before Congressional committees, I appear here voluntarily-by invitation-that I am an employee of the Columbia Broadcasting System, that I am neither an officer nor a director of that corporation and that these remarks are of a “do-it-yourself” nature. If what I have to say is responsible, then I alone am responsible for the saying of it. Seeking neither approbation from my employers, nor new sponsors, nor acclaim from the critics of radio and television, I cannot well be disappointed. Believing that potentially the commercial system of broadcasting as practiced in this country is the best and freest yet devised, I have decided to express my concern about what I believe to be happening to radio and television. These instruments have been good to me beyond my due. There exists in mind no reasonable grounds for personal complaint. I have no feud, either with my employers, any sponsors, or with the professional critics of radio and television. But I am seized with an abiding fear regarding what these two instruments are doing to our society, our culture and our heritage.
Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.
Posted: November 8th, 2009
Tags: Edward R Murrow
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The threat of disconnection is music to the ears of the BPI and record labels, but will it really make a difference?
France has already passed a ‘three-strikes’ law and Britain now looks set to follow, after Lord Mandleson’s announcement.
TechRadar already has a fairly succinct list of the 7 reasons the plan “sucks” but I wanted to add my own thoughts to the debate, and outline why I’m against the policy.
Firstly, there’s the simply view - technology is going to transform beyond all recognition how the public interact with Government and experience public services. The internet is central to this transformation, and so web connectivity will become more than just a luxury - it will be essential.
Furthermore, there are a series of more detailed concerns that in my mind make it simply wrong to disconnect internet access for what remains a civil matter.
The threat of disconnection is, it is claimed, only intended for those who are serial file-sharers, the worst of the worst. If the music and film industry research is to be believed, 70% of file sharers will cease to do so after one warning letter, threatening future action. Disconnection will be reserved for the hard-core of people intent on distributing illegal content whatever the repercussions.
Unfortunately, those hosting terabytes worth of material for file sharing are often more technically savvy than the teenager casually downloading a movie or a recently released album. In other words, they are exactly the kind of people who will look for a technical way of avoiding punishment - and encryption is an obvious first step.
This fear has already been publicly discussed by both MI5 and GCHQ - they believe that a trend towards encryption of internet traffic will make their work much harder.
I’d agree this is a reasonable fear - after all, if data is encrypted you have to de-encrypt it before you can decide if it is relevant or not. Nobody knows how much resource will be consumed within the national security infrastructure just filtering the inevitable deluge of encrypted movies and mp3s that will be all over the internet.
Furthermore, there is a natural technical adoption cycle in action here. Only a few years ago, Napster was in the ascendancy, then Kazzaa and a host of applications that adopted the same technical principle. Then came torrents, once the domain of hardcore fans looking to share huge FLAC files and now very much part of the mainstream.
Exactly the same adoption cycle will be seen in encryption. First the hardcore, early adopters at risk of punishment under new laws will encrypt their traffic. Then there will be a group of people who, while still at risk of punishment, share relatively little amounts of content. Then the mainstream internet community will shift and begin to encrypt masses of data - driven by an inevitable marketing campaign by encryption software vendors prying on the security and privacy fears of anyone with so much as a netbook or web-enabled phone.
And all this is before you even consider how the policy will be enforced, which inevitably leads to a discussion of what is known as “deep packet inspection” - the subject of my next blog.
Three strikes may seem a simple solution to internet file sharing and will please the music and film industries. In the long term, it will do little to change the culture of not paying for content and will create many more problems than it solves.