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.
Tags: BPI, internet piracy, lord mandleson, three-strikes
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