UK Politicians Keep Getting It Wrong: Now Want To Outlaw Weblockers
from the damn-that-VCR dept
Earlier this week, we noted that some UK Lords were looking to make the Digital Economy Bill even worse by adding a provision that would allow a judge to block all access to a website if that site was accused of facilitating copyright infringement. After widespread outcry against the proposal in the UK, the Lords changed the proposal, but came back with an even more ridiculous proposal that would be even more stringent in allowing courts to shut down websites. Cory Doctorow has an excellent writeup in The Guardian explaining how this would block out all sorts of legitimate activities:
As our routine media files have increased in size – multi-megapixel images, home videos, audio recordings of meetings and so on – it’s become increasingly difficult to use email to share data privately with family, friends and colleagues, because most email servers croak over really big files. For example, the sound editor for my podcasts uses a web locker to send me the mastered audiofiles for my review (and he’s not the only audio person who relies on this; many’s the time I’ve had an audiobook publisher send me an MP3 of an audiobook for review through a web locker).
There are plenty of personal uses too: my parents live in Canada and are always hungry for video of their granddaughter, but I don’t want to make our home movies available on the public internet, so web lockers save the day for us. And when my immigration attorneys needed a mountain of scanned bank statements sent to their office for my application for permanent residence in the UK, a web locker made it easy to convey an encrypted archive to them.
There’s no way to square this need for private file sharing with the entertainment industry’s demand that all files be placed in the public sphere, where they can be inspected for infringement.
On top of that, he notes that such blocks won’t stop unauthorized file sharing anyway. It will just drive those doing it further underground. In the end, it will just annoy people who have legitimate reasons to use such technology and/or put them at significantly greater risk of privacy violations.
What becomes clear in many of these debates is that the politicians pushing for these “solutions” don’t really understand technology at all — and, on top of that, often don’t clearly understand the details of the overall issue. They just hear “piracy” and think “bad, must be stopped.” But the truth is a lot more nuanced. The real issue is an industry with an increasingly obsolete business model that doesn’t want to adapt. But rather than help them do that, these politicians are basically trying to deny the technology — whether used for legitimate purposes or not — to pretend they can set up a world that works the way it used to.