Cutting off the music file-sharers

August 26, 2009

CHILE/Repeat offenders who persist in illegally downloading music from file-sharing sites such as Limewire could be blocked from accessing the Web under government proposals.

“Technology and consumer behavior is fast-changing and it’s important that Ofcom has the flexibility to respond quickly to deal with unlawful file-sharing,” says Minister for Digital Britain Stephen Timms.

Opponents of the idea are more succinct. They say cutting people off is unnecessary and potentially illegal. Human rights have been invoked.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, they say, has been successfully leaned on by lobbyists for the creative industries whose products are being hijacked.

The music industry, which is losing millions through illegal downloads, is naturally  pleased. The industry body UK Music says: “UK Music is pleased that Government is proposing accelerated and proportionate action to meet their stated ambition of reducing illegal file-sharing by 70-80% within 2-3 years.”

What do you think? Is there a case for such drastic measures?

Related blog: Who benefits from a file-sharing crackdown?

19 comments

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for me the issue is that music like everything should have a price. unfortunately record companies have been greedy. Why is it that if you bought an album on vinyl and then again on cd you should really only have to pay for the change in format as you already own a copy of the “intelectual property” if you have a copy and the you download a copy it should be for free(or a small admin fee for the change of format). When will these companies recognise that their public is not stupid and that production of a file does not have the same cost as putting it on a cd.

Posted by richard | Report as abusive

There’s no need to cut them off. Simply publish their names and home addresses, and give intellectual property authors power to execute a search without a warrant and immunity from prosecution for any accidental damage sustained when they send “the boys” round to collect the debt.I think you can probably guess what I do for a living…..

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

Everything must have a price, especially if you want the work to continue. Yes, record companies have been greedy as per Richard’s comment and indeed they continue to be. The RIAA has tried headline-grabbing tactics, sueing for hundreds of thousands ofdollars (and winning) but that won’t work either.How do you actually stop someone file-sharing anyway? programs will change your IP address and in range of my own WLAN there are two unsecured WLAN’s I can link to and simply download through them. OK, it makes it a little harder, but a 5 minute drive aropund any housing estate will find an unsecured WLAN and offer the chance to download multiple somgs within easy reach of your home. Even better, simply act dumb and say your WLAN wasn’t secured or was hacked – how will the ISP know that it was you?The file-sharing community is, in general, amongst the most savvy internet users. More savvy than the government and their advisors. They can change things in hours, build new ways of sharing and this doesn’t begin to cover newsgroups or FTP-based applications. The govenment is a lumbering beaurocracy that will never be able to move quick enough to beat the cyber community. By the time the white papaer has been released, the legislation becomes defunct. It is the nature of the beast. Love it or loathe it, our current model of government will never be able to stop it.

Posted by Adam k | Report as abusive

The problems here are manifold. Sure, technically, most file sharers are in breech of copyright laws – but not all. If we consider some participants to be ‘downloaders’ then the issue gets even murkier – how is the downloader meant to know that the copyright owner hasn’t put the material in the public domain… before they’ve even had a chance to view the material? Isn’t it a reasonable assumption that information freely offered is legal to download… or must all computer users act with clairvoyance?From a purely technical perspective, if internet access is to be cut (which might result in various significant hardships in today’s connected world – for example, undermining school grades; preventing working from home – etc… then there needs to be some significant safeguards against erroneous punishments. Should I be punished, for example, if a neighbour has cracked my wireless encryption? What about if viruses and mal-ware? Do you really expect me to believe that the police have the resources to do all the legwork here? If they do, why haven’t they cracked down on clearly illegal and fraudulent activities such as phishing? Is this because the government and law enforcement condone financial fraud?This is just another scare tactic – rather like 28-day detention without charge… the idea is not to combat criminal activity… but, rather, to undermine the confidence of the (broadly) law abiding majority. Copyright law is grotesquely clunky – but the population has adapted to the realities of its enforcement, rather than worrying about its arcane details. This is an attempt to alter the status-quo through bully tactics to the financial advantage of vested interests – nothing more.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

[...] Related Blog: Cutting off the music file-sharers [...]

I agree with the first comment. Since digital files can be replicated ad infinitum at infinitesimal cost, record companies should do more to add value on legal digital download sites, and probably reduce prices. They should also reduce prices and add more value in the physical CD market. This is already widely the case in the physical classical CD market (extensive notes, libretti for operas, attractive packaging, etc.) but I’m not sure the same applies in the pop category which is undoubtedly where most of the illegal copying goes on.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

As far as the ‘cost’ of piracy, I would be interested to see how the numbers are generated. As there is no way to tell how many of the people who illegally downloaded a song would have paid for it if they couldn’t, most of the cost would be the money spent trying to stop the unstoppable I would imagine. They are all still making money and profits are climbing as far as I am aware? The ‘cost’ has never taken into account the number of us, who, after finding a band through illegal means, decided to buy their CD, go to their gig and purchase other merchadise.When I was younger, we would always make tapes and later CD’s. We couldn’t afford to buy all the music our favourite bands released so we shared what we had. It was promotion for the band and label. The spreading of the brand to people who never would have had the opportunity.Technically, I can’t see how you could stop someone accessing the internet anyway without serious human rights violations. You may be able to stop them signing up with registered ISPs, but with the abundance of open hotspots and Internet/Gaming shops, its not hard to get back on for thos who are desperate. Anyone who is at risk or been prosecuted is probably capable of implementing security to protect them from discovery again anyway.It all seems like a waste of time and money. Time and money that could be spent on making more effective USE of the technology. Or (now here’s a crazy idea) making music and movies more affordable without taking money from the artists and content creators.

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive

If as stated, the activity is depriving the artists, something must be wrong as they still seem to be able to live the millionaires lifestyle. Its funny that when CD’s first came out they were £13+ but are now able to be £7-9 – (could be the companies were ripping us off?) They are only receiving their just rewards. Now the artists make their money from touring – seen the price of tickets? I remember paying £3 to see UFO in ’79 and the same for Quo. Just recently I was happy to pay £65 to see AC/DC – who’s the mug…..still

Posted by chris | Report as abusive

Very simple answer to all of this – STOP ripping us off with ludicrously high prices of cd and dvd products. Many artistes tell me they don’t receive a fraction of the price of one album which leads me to believe someone somewhere is making far too much profit – the distribution and maybe recording companies come to mind. Charge a fair price and file-sharing could become redundant overnight.

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive

it looks to me like the music recording owners and music publishers will keep pushing to maintain their revenue streams, until they are stopped; we should expect them to be greedy, to the point of absurdity; whatever happens, the old days of easy profits will never return for them

Posted by rob | Report as abusive

How typical of this country’s governments to penalize those at the end of the chain, which would often include other innocent family members, rather than deal with the source of the problem, in this case the sites making available free of charge copyrighted material.

Posted by Fraser | Report as abusive

i think most teenagers use limewire to gain music… and yes they are cheating the music companies out of sales… but cutting off the internet becasue of the teenager is a little harsh.. perhaps companies like limewire could introduce a charge maybe a monthly one for downloading.. plus you cant stop it all together people still go round other pepoles houses and find something they like, and take it from them.. it cant be helped

Posted by beadbeat | Report as abusive

I should say here that I honestly know nothing at all about downloading music having never tried this and indeed have no interest in doing so. So forgive me if I sound a little foolish here but…..If there is a problem with downloading this kind of thing, then why put it on the internet in the first place? Just stick to CD sales in shops and mail order etc then the problem will be solved. Or have I got the wrong end of the stick here?

Posted by Peter Schwarz | Report as abusive

What the media industries now have is a very cheap (if not free) way of reaching millions customers globally and advertising their goods i.e. the internet.The downside of this is that easily copied content is, well, copied and distributed.The media industry’s old model is broken.The only way to stop pirating is draconian legislation that makes the punishment for clicking a link worse than that for if you had mugged someone.And all a pirate has done is succumbed to temptation to click on this link that is available in your own home – not have the affront to go into a shop and steal a product off the shelves. What 14 year old who want their fav music can resist?The other solution is to turn this free content advertising and distribution to the industries advantage. For example streaming of films as soon as they are released (at not too high cost), short adverts that no one can be bothered to edit out (that will have a global audience), product placement, more merchandising, per play/watch micro-payments. For software, more downloadable content that requires a ‘registered’ copy.I am sure most pirates do want to support the makers of the content, but just want a reasonably priced, convenient way of getting it, content that is not laced with DRM as well as a very good selection.

Posted by John Norman | Report as abusive

what are you talking about, the desperate commercial strained voices and electronics so called music. you are worried about this noise being downloaded for commercial reasons. health and mental health yes but get real folks its a con. no one asks the question, if buying the only way how much would really be bought, rather less that we are asked to believe i think. considering the staggering money made its time to level it out. there will always be enough who want original sounds or noises whatever.

Posted by mike | Report as abusive

It just shows how little our “Minister for Digital Britain Stephen Timms” knows about internet access.Exactly how do you trace or block an individual who uses ‘Pay as you go’ internet access? Magic? GET REAL Mr Timms!

Posted by Pete Smith | Report as abusive

I am concerned that these proposals are making private companies and ISPs judge, jury and executioner for something a private firm requires, if someone is breaking the law then lets get due process under way and let the copyright holder take them to court, this is morally disturbing as it’s starting to set a precedent, what next parking companies turning off your water if you fail to pay a parking ticket?

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

The publishing industry are always going to be fighting a losing battle, no matter what legislation is passed(short of shutting down the internet). Casual downloaders, who would probably never actually pay for the content they download, whatever the price, are the only people who will be punished for their transgresions.Serious downloaders (for example,ME: I haven’t payed for a dvd or cd for close to 3 years, but I do still go to concerts and visit the cinema!) can easily avoid the detection methods employed by ISP’s.P.S. forgive me if i show no remorse at not providing the likes of Simon Cowel with thier fifth farrari.

Posted by waylanger | Report as abusive

When I was young & cared about music I tried to purchase a CD with just the songs I liked from various labels with no success (apparently not a problem for kids who now download only the music they like & delete what they don’t). I wanted to show a friend a clip from an old TV show, could I find it? I found another clip from a different program but I had to buy the whole season just to get the 15 second clip I wanted. The kids these days aren’t pirates. The government & industry is made up of Luddites. They will either move with the times or join history.

Posted by Steve S | Report as abusive

Excellent site, keep up the good work