Who benefits from a file-sharing crackdown?

August 26, 2009

jollyroger-300x234- Andrew Robinson is the leader of the Pirate Party UK. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Draconian penalties for file sharing were threatened by the government on Tuesday. In addition to the previously announced 50,000 pound maximum penalty for “IP offences” we are now told that whole families are to be disconnected from the net if just one member is accused of sharing files.

Leaving aside the obvious injustice of this proposal and the fact that our court service which handled 2.1 million cases last year is not going to be able to handle the 4.9 million extra cases that the government’s stated target of a 70 percent reduction in Britain’s 7 million file sharers would would necessitate, I think we should also consider who stands to benefit from this proposed crackdown.

There are two major ways that the general public currently access copyrighted content without paying the rights holders. One is through file sharing, where information is freely shared for no financial gain, and the public participate in what is effectively a giant library where even the rarest snipped of music or least appreciated TV show is altruistically preserved for posterity.

The other is through the purchase of counterfeit CDs and DVDs, where organised criminals exploit the work of others for financial gain, and tend to concentrate their efforts on solely on the latest blockbuster hits.

Inexplicably, the government are prepared to trample over all semblance of natural justice in order to stamp out the former, while completely ignoring the latter. The inevitable consequence of this is that people will switch from file sharing to buying counterfeit products, which is a seemingly trivial offence with no history of incurring terrifying penalties.

These measures will not help the preservation of our culture, or win votes for the Labour party, or boost the media industry’s profits. The actual beneficiaries of the file sharing crackdown will be inevitably be the organised criminal gangs producing counterfeit goods.

The Pirate Party UK proposes legalising file sharing when it is done without making profit, a policy that would allow enforcement measures to be focused on real criminals, the very gangs of organised counterfeiters who must currently be rubbing their hands in glee at Lord  Mandelson’s file sharing crackdown.

Related Blog: Cutting off the music file-sharers

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