On the traceability of IP addresses and the viability of detecting unlawful file sharing…
On 22 March there will be a judicial review of the ridiculous Digital Economy Act (DEA). It is an Act cobbled together by a cobbled-together Lord, and scrambled through to the statute books as the death rattle of a dying government. It should be got rid of by the Coalition as part of the Freedom Bill; but to their shame Cameron and Clegg are letting it limp on.
The Open Rights Group has been given leave to make a submission to the court for the judicial review. ORG’s submission documents can be found here.
The document I particularly like is the ‘Expert Report regarding the Judicial Review of the Digital Economy Act 2010’ by the excellent Dr Richard Clayton. It shows in considerable detail and clarity exactly why both the Digital Economy Act and the rights-holders that demand it are ridiculous. An example (but in reality there are many more compelling arguments):
Academic researchers at the University of Washington were running specialist Bit Torrent programs that looked as if they were doing file sharing, but were actually just recording statistics about the speed and effectiveness of the system. They received a number of ‘cease-and-desist’ letters from copyright owners who were under the impression that because the tracker machine had registered their interest in a particular file they were transferring the file.
This might have remained an edge case of little practical interest, since of course almost everyone else whose IP address was present in the tracker file was actively file sharing. However, the researcher found that they could forge entries in the torrent files, giving IP addresses that were not involved in file sharing at all: most famously they ‘framed’ their network-connected laser printer, which duly received a cease-and-desist letter.
I fear, however, that the DEA is the result of a done deal between governments around the world and the vested interests of big publishers. In the UK, the Digital Economy Act is merely preparing the ground for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). ACTA, we are repeatedly told, will not require its signatory countries to do anything that is not already the law of the land.
But ACTA requires what the Digital Economy Act provides: draconian action against illegal downloaders. Ergo, Cameron and Clegg need the DEA in order to be able to accept ACTA – which they have already done. Ergo, the judicial review will, at the very most, require meagre cosmetic touches that change nothing but aim to provide a semblance of democracy in our undemocratic country.
Meantime, let’s at least show these people what we think of them and the DEA by signing ORG’s petition against it.