UK Record Companies Want To Bring In 'Three Strikes' Using A 'Voluntary Code' For Punishing Alleged Illegal File Sharers
from the where-have-we-heard-that-before? dept
As we reported a few months back, the UK's misbegotten Digital Economy Act continues to go nowhere fast, with warning letters for alleged illegal filesharing unlikely to go out until 2016, if ever. As you can imagine, the UK recording and film industries aren't exactly overjoyed by this prospect, and have come up with Plan B, as reported by The Guardian:
Broadband providers are being asked to create a database of customers illegally downloading music, films and books, which could be used to disconnect or prosecute persistent offenders.
The idea is that after three warning letters, more serious action would be taken:
BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB and TalkTalk are being asked by music and film companies to sign up to a voluntary code for policing illegal downloading. Negotiations have been under way for months with the BPI and the British Video Association, whose members include the BBC and Hollywood studios.
Measures could include throttling internet connections to slow them down, blocking users from particular sites, disconnecting offenders from broadband for a limited period and ultimately prosecution.
Of course, this bears a striking resemblance to the "six strikes" plan in the US, and shares with it the same deep flaws, notably that it is based on allegations and that the burden is on the accused to prove that they are innocent. Compounding that difficulty is the fact that this is intended to be a purely voluntary code, and so there are no well-defined mechanisms for challenging such accusations in the courts or obtaining redress for being wrongfully accused.
Fortunately, the Guardian article indicates that UK ISPs are worried about the legal implications of creating a database of customers who are accused of illegal file sharing:
There are concerns that such a database may be illegal under the Data Protection Act, which states companies can only retain information about individuals where it is needed for commercial purposes.
Moreover, ISPs can hardly be keen to punish their own customers, who will probably just leave for another supplier. As a result, ISPs seem to be responding robustly to the idea. Virgin Media described the current proposals as "unworkable", while TalkTalk said:
"our customers' rights always come first and we would never agree to anything that could compromise them."
That's good news, but it's troubling that media companies are trying to bring in the discredited "three strikes" approach by the back door, circumventing debate and the democratic process using a "voluntary code" that takes no account of what the general public thinks, and which provides no protections for their basic rights.