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Is Filesharing Always Illegal?

Eyebrows have been raised at the April 2012 announcement by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that people suspected of infringing copyright laws by downloading digital material without a licence are unlikely to face anything much till 2014.

The Digital Economy Act (2010) was passed in the dying days of the last Labour Government after the voluntary agreements asked of the ISPs failed to stem the tide of illegal file sharing that was rampant across the web. It allows for a 12 month period of monitoring during which the freetards would receive warning letters from Ofcom somewhat stronger than merely ‘cease and desist’.

The first letters were expected a year ago; now they will be at least three years late. The Act faced difficulties from the start, with BT and TalkTalk requesting a legal review which was unsuccessful but delayed proceedings. It proposed a ‘graduated response’ to persistent offenders, likened to a ‘three strikes and you’re out’. The final stage was ‘technical measures’ which was having connections entirely severed.

Commentators of technological happenings generally are scathing about whether these letters will ever start, how the sanctions will operate in reality and whether there is truly political will to implement the Act.

Also, what other countries, particularly the US and the rest of Europe, do about illegal filesharing is not altogether irrelevant. The American Homeland Security and Justice Departments take it very seriously and will pursue hackers and freeloaders in the widest sense across the world, extraditing them to face US courts without a second thought.

Copyright and intellectual rights infringement is a serious matter, especially for the authors, composers, musicians and others who are affected through their pockets, but many do not regard it as theft. They believe the open net should be just that, and if something is in the public domain in any format, it should stay that way.

The practical details cannot just be brushed aside, as they are so very difficult. If there is widespread monitoring of emails, web searches, texts and phone calls, then it may be possible to see how people can be prevented from sharing. However, it would have to a  be a global and watertight agreement to stamp it out fully.

If music is downloaded from YouTube or elsewhere, it can be tracked back. If it is played and recorded, it does not show as a download, but is simply a listening.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) technology permits anybody anywhere to share data and files including that subject to copyrights within seconds. The architecture of these systems is variable, some with centralised servers, some with no one operating and many contain measures that purposely conceal senders’, recipients’ and contents’ information.

Most of the data, once released, is irretrievable. The damage is done. It has to be accepted that there are many legal, educational and social reasons that make P2P sharing legitimate.

So, if the practicalities of ‘the devil is in the detail’ mean that this legislation will never be implemented, it begs several questions:

  • What, if anything, is to be done about illegal filesharing?
  • Will filesharing simply be legalised by default?
  • How many more Acts of Parliament should be left to gather dust, unused?

Source:
The Register, Andrew Orlowski, 24 April 2012.

Links:
Intellectual Property Rights Are Web’s Grey Area.
The Web of One May Not Be Desirable After All.
Pirates of the Internet: Neither Jolly Nor Romantic.

Image: Filescope Community