Ofcom's got some "great" plans for the code of practice and letters for the suspected filesharer on a three strikes policy. Its going to be a big job, its going to be costly. Guess who will end up paying?

It’s been a busy few months here in the (now) sunny UK.  Not only did we see the Digital Economy Bill rushed through parliament but also a coalition government with allegedly the liberal democrats wanting to get rid of it with the conservatives seemingly quite happy with it.

It is now being reported that Ofcom is drawing up plans for a code of practice to create logs of users who are alleged to infringe copyright which will include when, where and what was being downloaded.  Now apparently it will take three written warnings before the companies concerned can take action in regards to the list, although is this as well as or instead of a out of court settlement warning letter?

The consultation process that Ofcom has started is allegedly due to end on June 30th and the new “code” of practice expected to be in place by 2011.

Jim Killock of Open Rights Group has reservations and makes very valid points.  Taken from his article:

ORG and other groups have been willing to accept the principle of letter writing, but this current consultation shows the weaknesses in the legislation that was rammed through in the dying hours of the last Parliament. Already the Act threatens to punish innocent people with additional, unwarranted costs and bars to clearing their name.

Going back though to the matter at hand, it is reported by the BBC that Ofcom said the warning letters would be:

….easy to understand information on the nature of the allegations made against the subscriber and on what actions a subscriber can take, both to challenge the allegation and to protect their network from being hijacked for the purposes of infringement.

Which seems fine until you read rumors that internet users may be footing the bill for these warning letters.

Allegedly its only the “big” ISP’s to be running this “scheme”, that being BT, Talk Talk, Virgin Media, Sky, Orange, O2.  I wonder, when Virgin Media is pimping its super-fast broadband, what it considers its end users intentions with it?  It seems to me that the ISP’s are quite happy to sell you superfast broadband without a care what you do with it….afterall its you not them on the end of a court case should you be accused wrongly or not.

So now I consider the following questions which are not clear, as is always the case when government tries to get involved in IT.  Firstly, What counts as your first strike? is it against a company or infringement in general?  For example does something get 2 strikes at Warner Brothers material and another 2 at EMI before further action is taken?   What technology is being targeted here? is it bittorrent, p2p in general or are the binaries fair game too? What about IRC?  Thats one hell of a list and one hell of a piece of monitoring software.  How will they validate that a download is actually infringing copyright?  and what about a downloader of an album? would they be counted per track or per album?  Thats hardly fair if another user has a “strike” against them for downloading a single track.  But most importantly of all, who is going to be footing the bill for this logistical nightmare? – I think its an easy guess who.

In respect of this new “scheme” the BBC is reporting that this will also involve:

promotion of legal alternatives to file-sharing networks and targeted action against the most persistent offenders.

Although maybe consideration should be given to also promoting FOSS too? Of course Im sure the very companies now making noises about piracy (looking to Microsoft here) might not be very happy if people are told that there are legal free alternatives to their product range…..so maybe this code will just forget about the mentioning FOSS part.

I’ve said all along the DEB will be trouble.  Unfortunately while some worry about wrongful accusations and the ideology that you can’t steal data, I worry about who is going to pay for all this logging/detecting and letter writing. I wonder who?

I’ll tell you who, you and me.

One thing though this news must be good news for FACT, because P2P tech threatens to take away the pirate DVD market stall if the new “code of practice” makes it “too hot” for P2P users then I would expect those not frightened to take the risk will be raking in profit as they sell the copied titles on the street.  So for FACT the revitalised industry of pirate DVD sales will make the work flood in….happy times ahead Im sure.

I get fed up with saying it,  copyright infringement can be greatly reduced.  This is not the way to do it.  But who cares if it doesn’t work? You are paying for the experiment….theres always next year.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the Openbytes statement, here.