With typical Whitehall understatement, I think we can say there has been a lively reaction to the announcement on Tuesday about further proposals to tackle unlawful peer-to-peer filesharing. We thought it was worth countering a few of the more strident accusations against the Government over the past couple of days, and have picked out some below. We’re sure this won’t end the argument, but here are six popular arguments against the policy, with a short reply each time.
1. You’ve abandoned Digital Britain
It would be nice if the policies we set out in the Digital Britain Report were so widely accepted that people considered them immutable, but this certainly isn’t true.
We were consulting on the package set out in Digital Britain and have added further proposals as the result of further consideration. The core proposals – notification of those who seem to be breaching copyright, with a sanction of technical measures if that is not working, remain in place.
2. This is all about David Geffen and the music industry influencing the debate.
No discussion took place with David Geffen about Digital Britain. Peter Mandelson has said he doesn’t even think the issue is on Geffen’s radar.
As for other industry bodies, of course the Business Secretary meets and listens to businesses all the time. But these proposals come after a great deal of discussion and analysis – as we listened to people’s views and considered the consultation responses that we’ve already received, it simply became clear to us that we needed to add more ideas to the discussion for people to consider. That is what we did on Tuesday.
3. You’re criminalising a generation of people
4. People like filesharing and we should not be trying to turn back the clock.
The Government agrees with this. Enforcement is not enough. Legitimate online music products need to become available – and many are – but if unlawful sharing is widespread it is difficult to see how they can really take hold. It’s not about going back to the days of expensive CDs.
5. It’s all illegal under European law
We believe what we are doing complies with national and EU law but obviously if the law in Europe changes, then we will need to make sure what we do is compliant. Amendment 138 has been mentioned a lot, but in fact it has not been adopted (by the EC); although it is set for conciliation in the autumn.
6. The law can’t be enforced
The identification process will need to be as robust as possible and we expect the lessons from the MOU to help develop this. However we realise that it is possible for mistakes to occur or for people to have their wireless connection hi-jacked. We will set up an appeals mechanism so that the consumer has an easy appeals route at each stage.
For technical measures (including possible account suspension), it is even more important to have an independent quick and easy route of appeal given the impact imposing such measures might have. We will be paying close attention to developments in Brussels but at the moment we envisage a tribunal system to which a consumer would have recourse before imposition of any technical measure.
*Updated to correct earlier error – thanks to Crosbie Fitch for the comment.