UK Greens slam BPI/ISP file-sharing deal

The UK Green Party has slammed the anti-file-sharing deal reached lastweek between the recording industry and ISPs, warning that it will have a “serious impact on internet access for vulnerable people.”

The deal, negotiated and approved by the UK government,  would allow the six ISPs (BT, Virgin, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse) to slow down or cut off the internet connections of people simply suspected of file-sharing. Information on potential suspects will be provided by the BPI.
Greens condemn these as ‘draconian measures’ and warn they would harm the quality of life of vulnerable people, particularly those using shared internet connections. They argue that users of shared connections are the most likely to be targeted as suspects, as there’s no way of telling exactly who a guilty party is at an access point.

The Green Party has also slammed the labels for their focus on legal and corporate power, rather than on the needs and wishes of their customers and their artists. Greens argue a healthy music industry, “less dependent on corporate power, can continue to thrive without attacking people’s rights to share content.”

Green PartyIntellectual Property Spokesperson, Tom Chance, said: “Net-users everywhere should be worried by the Memorandum of Understanding between the BPI and the six largest ISPs in the UK. Faults exist at every level. The first stage gives the BPI the right to track file-sharers, and pass their details onto ISPs. That’s an attack on civil liberties in itself – but the true folly of the scheme rests in what those ISPs can do next.

“Their new powers run in two halves. Initially, they merely send warning letters to suspected filesharers. If these fail to deter them, the ISPs threaten to to slow or cut off their internet connections. This is a hugely disproportionate response.  It wouldn’t matter who had done the sharing. It wouldn’t matter if it was someone else in the building. It wouldn’t matter if your machine had been assaulted by malware and used without your knowledge. The ISPs will target suspects, which means many people on shared internet connections will be cut off under these rules.  These rules risk cutting many vulnerable people off from their livelihoods and their means for engaging as a citizen.

“Geoff Taylor from the BPI says, “there is not an acceptable level of file-sharing. Musicians need to be paid like everyone else,” and Feargal Sharkey, spokesperson for British Music Rights, claims, “no business can survive after losing as much revenue as the music industry has.” But the fact is that this loss of revenue results from the music industry’s failure to move with the times.

“Draconian measures won’t stem that loss. The speed and ease of file-transfer makes it an increasingly attractive option compared to conventional buying options. It’s the difference between pressing a button and going out to get the bus to the nearest music shop. If the music industry ever hopes to compete with that convenience, it needs to develop both legal and fair means of sharing files.

“Record companies typically want to develop software along the lines of iTunes; a monopoly where individuals sign up and pay to legally share music. That’s clearly unsatisfactory. The money collected won’t find its way to musicians –  the companies’ typical charge against filesharing. The advent of mass social networking allows developing artists to promote themselves without immediate recourse to studios’ PR teams, so whatever deal is produced should help sites that support independent artists, such as Magnatune, not just multinationals that distribute record industry fare.

“The internet offers consumers and artists greater freedom from the strictures of corporate power. This memo attempts to stop that; its assault on file-sharing attacks consumers, while its proposals on legal filesharing seek simply to preserve the record industry’s cut of musician’s profits. Along the way, it makes a flagrant challenge to the liberty of internet users, which must be opposed.”

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