UK govt sparks storm with plan to cut off filesharers

ISPs will be forced to throttle or terminate the services of illegal filesharers under a controversial new UK government plan.
 
The plan, announced yesterday, provoked a strong response from local ISPs and privacy advocates.
 
The Digital Britain blueprint two months ago ruled out proposal to cut off filesharers. Regulator Ofcom was working towards requiring ISPs to bring in anti-piracy “technical measures” if the letters of demand failed to reduce illegal file-sharing by 70%.
 
However the government has changed its stance, linking the tough new rules business secretary Lord Mandelson’s holiday with Hollywood mogul David Geffen earlier this month in Corfu.
 
Under the proposals, “technical measures” such as speed throttling that Ofcom was to police, may be put directly in the hands of the secretary of state.
 
Mandelson’s Department for Business Innovation & Skills said in a statement yesterday that “we cannot know how P2P technology might develop in the short to medium term and we want to ensure Ofcom has a full tool kit from which to select the most appropriate measure should technical measures be deemed necessary.”
 
John Petter, the managing director of BT Consumer, told Daily Telegraph the carrier was “disappointed” by the announcement.
 
“We were broadly supportive of the original plans but these changes run the risk of penalizing customers unfairly. We believe the creative industries need to play a larger role in tackling copyright infringement and so we will be making our views known to the government.”
 
Another ISP, TalkTalk, said “disconnection at the instigation of the Secretary of State will sidestep proper scrutiny, likely breach fundamental human rights and result in innocent people being disconnected or, worse, prosecuted.”
 
Watchdog group Privacy International warned that the rules could face the same fate as a similar French law earlier this year, which was overturned by a French court.
 
“This proposal fundamentally reverses the onus of proof,” PI told the Guardian. “It is fraught with technical impossibility, it invites circumvention and creates a major online conflict between rights holders and users. And these are fundamental rights that are being violated.”
 
The proposal could also conflict with a European Parliament ruling in May prohibiting EU governments from cutting off a user's internet connection without a court order.

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