UK Considers Forcing ISPs To Block File Sharing

from the as-if-that-will-work dept

Following the recent UK shutdowns of OiNK and tv-links, Lord Triesman, the parliamentary Under Secretary for Innovation, Universities and Skills, is now threatening to regulate ISPs if they don’t stop file sharing. Unfortunately, Lord Triesman seems a bit confused both about technology and economics here — which is disappointing, as his thoughts on regulations would impact both negatively. He seems to think that this would involve an easy technology fix saying that “it is quite possible to know where it is happening and who it is happening with.” Then he follows that up with: “we will be able to match data banks of that music to music going out and being exchanged on the net.” That sounds good, but unfortunately, he’s been misinformed. While it is true that many people do reveal who they are, those who are serious about this stuff know how to remain mostly hidden. Triesman says that they’re not concerned with 14-year-olds sharing files, but only the professionals who are making “multiple copies for profit.” The problem is that those are exactly the people who won’t be caught by these methods.

Next up, Triesman trots out the old and tired myth about how piracy will cause the music industry to disappear: “We have some simple choices to make. If creative artists can’t earn a living as a result of the work they produce, then we will kill off creative artists and that would be a tragedy.” Yes, it’s true that if they can’t earn a living from what they do, we will lose new creative content (I’m assuming he didn’t really mean that it would kill the artists literally), but the big implicit assumption there is that piracy means they can’t earn a living from the work they produce. As we’ve seen over and over again that’s not true. If you understand the economics, you can use free file sharing to your advantage to make a bigger name for yourself and make more money from other sources. To imply that file sharing kills off creative content is clearly incorrect — and it’s about time that myth died off.

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Comments on “UK Considers Forcing ISPs To Block File Sharing”

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43 Comments
Mike F.M (user link) says:

How can you?

How can you block something that has so many legitimate uses and actually does the music industry the world of good (even if they don’t recognise it)?

That’s similar than getting the P2P sites to regulate the content. Not going to happen and basically impossible.

Even if they did somehow manage to get this into effect, as Ajax 4Hire said, they would just go elsewhere and design newer ways of doing exactly the same things.

Paul (profile) says:

Let him know about the other side of the coin

The Music Industry funds lobby groups to feed FUD to the minister and like a good little public servant seeing an opportunity to raise his profile – off he goes.

The issue is the fact that the ‘Music Industry’ is a dinosaur that is not capable of modifying its business model to accommodate the changes in technology and public demand.

The vast majority of criminals are the general public reacting to the unreasonable constraints created by the Music Industry as it struggles to make its outdated business model continue to generate revenue. Admittedly there are a minority of offenders who deserve prosecution for abusing the law to make money. The minority do it so that they can use the music in a manner suited to todays technology. Price is also an issue as the majority are of the opinion that high volume low cost is the answer that is easily achievable by todays technology. The Music Industry is adamantly sticking to the opposite, hence the conflict.

Unfortunately the people that suffer will be the public who do not have lobby groups to represent their opinion. This imbalance causes the minister to incorrectly assess the issue.

I have sent my opinion to him. Just one voice from the masses against the lobby groups but it may help. If you feel strongly enough to add your weight to our side of the argument the minister can br contacted via

info@dius.gsi.gov.uk. (That’s the best I could find)

The more he gets, the more chance he may see things from our point of view and see through the FUD.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not sure this is such a bad idea. If you think about it if the ISPs did block current P2P and other file sharing networks how much innovation would spring up to defeat these blocks?

I’m betting new and improved methods, with possibly a higher level of encryption and anonymity would spring up to replace the existing file sharing tools.

MojoMick says:

RE:#5, #7 yep ..

an interesting point, AC and K_T – and I definitely agree that the community will simply adapt, improvise, and overcome any such nonsense.

however, the problem here is the direction that these fools want to take things. here’s my (paranoid?) view of what they want – and this is why it’s a bad road to get started down:

1. eeeeeeeeeevil scary p2p is blocked.

2. community adapts, comes up with new methods, including encryption methods which will defeat even the best deep packet inspection tools (which, be assured, are installed and running RIGHT NOW in every major and most minor naps)

3. lawmakers again being lobbied by riaa use their idiotic arguments as an excuse to pass laws to make it illegal to use any type of packet encryption – or *unapproved* protocols for that matter – unless *approved* by license or some crappy government agency. this will be presented, of course, as an effort to “save the children” from the eeeeevil of p2p and file sharing or pr0n or terrorists or ___ (fill in the blank)

(and heaven forbid you might want to surf/browse/work anonymously – you *must* be a terrorist if that’s what you want – besides *what have you got to hide?!* …)

4. bow to big brother. rights ? what rights ? you don’t have no stinkin’ rights.

points 3 and 4 are their goals anyway. they could really care less about the stupid riaa, just that riaa still has deep coffers and continues to ,*ahem*, assist in re-election campaigns … and nice chalets in the alps … and get you invited to all the *cool* parties with hookers and coke …

oh, but what am I saying … it doesn’t *really* work that way, now does it ? I’m just a paranoid git …

TheDock22 says:

Re: RE:#5, #7 yep ..

Everyone keeps arguing that P2P is used for transferring of legal files. You can not deny though that most of the traffic is from sharing of files that you would normally have to pay for (I mean, how many people download a copy of Linux compared to sharing music). Beside, for all the legit content out their you can download directly from a website, so blocking P2P is not going to ruin your opportunity to get legit programs and music. So, I do not see what the big deal is. I haven’t used file sharing programs in at least 3 years, I just buy my music or programs.

Also, off topic, there was an article about Radiohead that said they ditched their record label to produce music on their own. That’s not true, they switched to a new label called ATO Records which is an imprint of RCA/BMG.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Yah, #9

Yah, thats why I said I cannot condone this. It is a stupid path. The people who are behind creating the tools we use now will probably go along this path anyways because of the ISPs limiting or delaying (comcast anyone?) the traffic as is.
I believe there is already one such program called Gigatribe, but I still have yet to research that one.

Boris Jacobsen says:

Hypocrisy

If creative artists can’t earn a living as a result of the work they produce, then we will kill off creative artists and that would be a tragedy.

This is a representative of the same duopoly of UK governments (Labour has proved no better than Conservative, sadly) that has pushed forward a string of reforms that involve charging public venues such as pubs and clubs and restaurants higher and higher licence fees for hosting live music. Many ‘venues’ have therefore ceased emplyoying musicians. As a consequence, many many fewer musicians are able to earn a reasonable living out of live performance in the UK now than, say, 30 years ago.

Silicon.shaman says:

umm... bait & switch?

Consider this…they can force the ISP’s to install government spy software, [there aren’t that many here after all].

Now, they say it’s comparing all the data packets against a “bank of registered music” files, and it’ll probably scan for keywords too…

we know it can’t do what they say it’s doing… so what if it isn’t?

What if this is their way of getting in unlimited and indiscriminate spying on us ordinary people in via the backdoor? They know we’d never fall for the “we’re looking for terrorists” scam like the American’s did.

It’s in the nature of all Governments to acquire more power, and the more power they have, the more they grow paranoid that someone’s out to take it away.

Or maybe I should just invest in stocks in tinfoil do you think?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: umm... bait & switch?

What if this is their way of getting in unlimited and indiscriminate spying on us ordinary people in via the backdoor?

What, you Brits wouldn’t let yourselves become a surveillance society would you? Next thing you know, you’ll be going round installing cameras in public places just to keep an eye on each other.

chris (profile) says:

que darknets in 3, 2, 1....

learn what a darknet is:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darknet

then read the darknet paper (by microsoft):
http://crypto.stanford.edu/DRM2002/darknet5.doc
http://msl1.mit.edu/ESD10/docs/darknet5.pdf

the harder you try to stop P2P, the further you drive the technology, and the further you drive it underground.

the shutdown of napster begat gnutella, which begat bittorrent. blocking bittorrent/shutting down trackers will beget tunneled and encrypted connections on random ports (or worse, port 80) to ad hoc networks.

once all p2p traffic looks like VPN traffic, what are you going to do? make VPN traffic illegal? outlaw SSH? even if you could against the wishes of the business community, you will just drive things even further underground.

can you ban IRC? how about file transfers in AIM/yahoo/skype/you name it? how about people using myspace/facebook/email/irc to arrange local meets with usb hard drives and wireless mesh?

even if you get the local police involved, how can they stop it all? the answer: they can’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: lawl

watch freenet hit release some day and let them have fun tracking a P2P program that uses random ports from 1024-65535 and uses fully encrypted connections

I haven’t looked at Freenet in a while, but the last I knew they had completely given up on the idea of an anonymous censorship-proof public network. It seems that after a lot of time and effort was invested in trying to get the network acceptably usable they finally discovered that the main problem was that they were essentially being continually attacked by a large, sophisticated and persistent (years) distributed denial of service attack. Which actors had the motivation and resources to conduct such a campaign? That’s open to speculation, but the result was that the freenet developers decided they had bitten off way more than they could chew and gave up on the anonymous public network idea. Instead, they took the easy way out decided that non-public security-through-obscurity private underground networks or “darknets” would be much easier. Of course, those kinds of “secret” networks have already been around for a long time and in many different flavors thus making Freenet an almost completely irrelevant “me too” project.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

#12, Dock22

You must fit right in with the MPAA / RIAA / Government types. There is a tool, made for good, but it can be used for bad and is used for bad, so lets ban it. It seems like a rather silly argument. How about lockpicks. They are made. If you lock yourself out of your house it is perfectly legal for you to use them to get back into your own house. However they are probably used more often for theives. So why not ban them? I chose lockpicks to try to attain something closer to your view where the tool is used “mostly” for bad but has perfectly fine uses.

Sacking the good because of the bad is never a good path in anything. But maybe thats just my high morals. Which, my morals, are simply my opinion, and everybody else’s will vary.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Killer, the lockpick tool kit isn’t a good example. That can get you locked up for owning burglar tools.

Bull. Lockpicks have legitimate uses. A hammer can be a burglar tool also but owning one doesn’t you’re going to prison. A baseball bat can be used to assault someone too but owning one doesn’t mean you’re going to prison. It depends on what you’re doing with it. Again, just owning it isn’t a crime.

CharlieHorse says:

umm, no ...

lockpick is a perfect example, in fact.

you cannot be “locked up for owning burglar tools.”

you can only be locked up for committing burglary.

are you saying that all locksmiths are going to be locked up because they own lockpick kits which (if I may infer your assumption!) by your definition are “burglar tools.” ?

what about a screwdriver ? it can be used to jimmy a lock. so – do we know lock up all mechanics and contractors who own the “burglar tool” commonly known as a screwdriver ?

just curious as to where your logic is going/coming from, RT.

RandomThoughts (user link) says:

Re: umm, no ...

A person commits the crime of possession of burglar’s tools if he possesses any tool, instrument or other article adapted, designed or commonly used for committing or facilitating offenses involving forcible entry into premises, with a purpose to use or knowledge that some person has the purpose of using the same in making an unlawful forcible entry into a building or inhabitable structure or a room thereof.

2. Possession of burglar’s tools is a class D felony.

From Missori’s laws. And yes, a screwdriver could be considered a burlar tool. Depends on how you use it.

TheDock22 says:

Re: Re: umm, no ...

Also, in many states you need to carry a license/permit to possess lockpicking tools. If you can’t prove that you will go to jail.

By Killer_Tofu’s philosophy, let’s just require a license for anyone wanting to connect to P2P services. Then if they violate the terms it will be easy to track them down and punish them accordingly.

Owen says:

Re: Re: umm, no ...

Actually,

If you had any of this stuff in your own home (burglars tools as you put it, lockpicks, screwdrivers etc) then you are fine…

If you’re out and about and the police suspect you of attempting burglary because you have such tools on you then you can be charged with the offence of “going equipped” at least in this country anyway (UK) don’t know what the rules are for the US but I imagine fairly similar…

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Licensed

Licensing people is not the answer either.
I don’t license you to surf specific places on the net.
The government should not be given any such power.
If you believe they should, China might be a perfect place for you, as it would fall right in line with those views for now.
I am trying to speak up to make mine a more free country where our own people are not treated like criminals just for breathing. Saying that, I do realize that I am in the US and this article is about the UK. So this last bit is a little off topic.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Internet Without Peer to Peer

Those who claim that the internet would be usable without peer-to-peer seem to ignorant of the fact that the whole internet architecture itself peer-to-peer, not client-server. Yeah, you can layer client-server stuff over that, but without the underlying peer-to-peer stuff nothing is going to work.

CharlieHorse says:

RE:ummm, no

k – I have done some thinking and research on this and I stand by my original post.

the MS law that R_T refers to seems to be giving the state leeway to form some determination of intent. thus it’s vaguely worded form. (gives lawyers wiggle room, so to speak.) it does not outright make it illegal to simply carry the tools.

again, going by our discussion – thus you would be committing a felony for the simple act of possessing a screwdriver. however, if leo catches you in act of jimmying a lock on the backdoor of the local liquor store, then you are carrying the tools with intent, etc. etc. and yes, I would say you are then prosecutable – primarily for attempted B&E – but also they’ll probably throw on the possession charge if you have the specific lockpick tools as well. otherwise I still would argue that I will not be locked up for merely possessing lockpick tools – even in MS!

I will concede the point that in areas where there is a definite legal requirement to have a license to carry such tools, that you may be then liable.

otherwise – it is the intent that the law is more interested in, not the mere possession.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: RE:ummm, no

the MS law that R_T refers to seems to be giving the state leeway to form some determination of intent. thus it’s vaguely worded form. (gives lawyers wiggle room, so to speak.) it does not outright make it illegal to simply carry the tools.

That’s right, it doesn’t. That won’t stop RT from claiming otherwise though.

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