Big Media Get Their Way: Govt. Now Wants Quicker Piracy Action, Disconnection

Despite Lord Carter’s 10-month Digital Britain review deciding to ease piracy with soft ISP measures if a system of warning letters doesn’t work, the government is now publishing a series of “new ideas” aimed at curing the problem more quickly.

Peter Mandelson’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) says Carter’s original proposals could not be introduced until 2012 – “an unacceptable amount of time to complete in a situation that calls for urgent action”. Its new ideas are (release)…

Quicker action: Rather than wait to see whether an initial phase of warning letters succeeds in reducing piracy by 70 percent before allowing Ofcom to instruct ISPs to implement Carter’s proposed “technical measures” (blocking download sites, protocols or ports, capping or shaping broadband and filtering traffic), Mandelson would instead empower Ofcom to do so after BIS merely takes consultation on the issue, and from more bodies than Ofcom alone. BIS says measuring the effect of letters on P2P use, as proposed originally, would be “extremely difficult” and that “using a precisely defined ‘trigger’ as the basis for introducing technical measures would not be sufficiently flexible”.

Disconnection: “We are considering the case for adding suspension of accounts into the list of measures that could be imposed. This does not necessarily mean that suspension would be used – this step would obviously be a very serious sanction as it would affect all members of a household equally, and might disrupt access to other communications, so it should be regarded as very much a last resort.”

ISPs pay for policing: “Individual parties will have to bear the costs they incur as a result of these obligations apart from the operating costs of sending notifications, which will be split 50:50 between ISPs and rights holders.”

The effect of the new ideas, which are themselves being put out to consultation, extends the original final consultation on Digital Britain to September 29, before the Digital Economy bill is drawn up that would pass them in to law. Isn’t that changing the goalposts mid-game? Former digital inclusion minister Tom Watson tweets that charge is “unfair”, though Tuesday’s document itself acknowledges: “We recognise that this comes mid-way through the on-going consultation.”

So the saga continues. We now have to await stakeholders’ views on yet another proposal. Even if disconnections are supported by respondents (many rightsholders had proposed disconnection in the first place), Mandelson must recall that European parliamentarians want any such action by ISPs to be preceded by a court order.