MONDAY VIEW: The copyright crackdown we will all pay for – Daily Mail
By Charles Dunstone, featured today as the Daily Mail’s Monday View.
The Digital Economy Bill is one of the few pieces of legislation the government is actively pushing through parliament before an election is called.
Its aim is to build Britain’s telecommunications backbone and to pave the way for a world-beating digital economy – an admirable objective with cross-party support.
Yet lurking within this worthy endeavour is some of the most dangerous and misguided legislation to have come before parliament in recent years.
The Bill sets out to tackle online copyright infringement – frequently referred to as ‘illegal peer-to-peer file- sharing’ – in order to support Britain’s creative industries.
There is no doubt that some people do use the internet to watch films and listen to music without paying. TalkTalk does not condone or encourage copyright infringement, but I believe that the government’s proposals are disproportionate, impractical and deeply unprincipled.
Incredibly, the Bill effectively gives music labels and film studios the right to instruct internet service providers, such as TalkTalk, to cut off the internet connection of anyone that the labels and studios suspect of copyright infringement.
They don’t have to prove it in a court of law or to an impartial third party. The onus is on the customer to prove their innocence.
Consider this: if the police want to disconnect someone they suspect of viewing child pornography they have to apply to a court first and prove guilt. The Digital Economy Bill, in effect, casts people who download music without paying for it as a more urgent menace to society than people who view images of child abuse.
We know many broadband customers caught up in this Orwellian nightmare will be innocent since the detection method cannot establish the individual who is file- sharing. It can only identify the connection, which many – including the unauthorised – can use.
Already the consumer group Which? has identified innocent broadband customerswho have been pursuedrelentlessly by lawyers using the same process outlined in the Bill. These customers are the victims of Wi-Fi hijacking – hacking into other people’s internet connections in order to download content.
Because determined filesharers can easily avoid detection using Wi-Fi hijacking and a growing array of other tools and applications, it will be innocent broadband customers who suffer the consequences of this nightmare.
The music and film industry has lobbied hard for these measures, claiming that copyright infringement costs them about £400million a year in lost revenues. But the cost of tackling the problem will be massive – maybe hundreds of millions of pounds a year.
And guess who foots this bill? The music and film companies? Not a chance. You will pay for it – an extra £2 per month on your broadband bill, according to BT.
In fact, the cost of copyright protection plus the socalled ‘phone tax’ will jointly add about £30 per year to broadband bills.
Demand modelling shows this could make internet access unaffordable for 600,000 hard-pressed families. So much for the government’s claimed commitment to ‘digital inclusion’.
For the record, we make no money out of copyright infringement. The extra traffic costs us money as we have to add additional capacity to the network to carry the data.
The reality is that when content becomes digitised it, in effect, becomes free. It doesn’t matter how many websites are blocked, how many services shut down, how many families snooped on, people will always find ways to access copyrighted content free online. Film studios and music labels have to live with that truth and adapt their businesses.
The creative industries’ arguments are phoney and the government’s response will turn our digital economy into a disaster zone.