Are They ISPs, or Are They Bobbies?

The “No-Bits List” I facetiously proposed late last month in response to a speech made by U2’s manager may soon become reality in the UK, setting a very ominous precedent for Internet users across the globe.

Legislative proposals will be introduced next week that will require ISPs to take legal action against users accused of downloading pirated material, such as music or movies,
according to the TimesOnline. Four of the largest ISPs in the UK (BT, Tiscali, Orange and Virgin Media) have been in joint talks over this scheme. According to the proposed plan, users suspected of downloading pirated materials will get warnings before their Internet connectivity is turned off.


The legislature in the UK is bowing to pressures from the recording and film industries to place blame on the builders of the Internet for people using the infrastructure for illegal activities. While I clearly do not condone using the Internet for illegal activities, it is absolutely inane to force the people who build the Internet access methods (the ISPs) to police their own network. It is true that the Internet makes it easier for illegal downloads to occur, but the same could be same of handguns –- they make it easier to commit murder. And no one is asking Glock or Sig to start tracking down murderers.

I cannot think of another type of infrastructure (technology or otherwise) where the builders are forced to monitor and police its use. In the UK is the BBC responsible for making sure that their television and movie content is not recorded onto a DVD and resold? I think the police would be involved to stop the selling of this illegal content –- and as far as I know the BBC does not employ police officers. Should ISPs start looking at their traffic to see if anyone under age is accessing pornography? Maybe ISPs should add you to the UK “No-Bits List” if you send three emails that they thought to be connected with selling or buying illegal drugs?

Ridiculous, you say? The film and recording industries clearly have a problem with their business models and are frantically trying to get out of their self-imposed tailspin. Yet this it is not the fault of the Internet and the ISPs, nor should this problem result in any new legislation. I thought theft was already a crime, and that laws were enforced by the police.

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