UK Govt set ISPs impossible challenge

So, the UK Govt is going to require ISPs to “take concrete steps” to curb illegal downloads of music and films or face being hit with legal sanctions from April next year. The Culture Secretary said this was a “clear signal” of the government’s determination to tackle rampant piracy, which the music and film industries blame for the slump in CD and DVD sales.

The music and film industry makes a significant contribution to the UK economy and so this may be both an economic and morale issue for the Govt. However, mandating ISPs to curb illegal downloads is the easy bit, especially when then Govt don’t have to offer solutions as to how this might be achieved [“best left to the ISPs”!].

The challenges to this are immense. Firstly, one has to distinguish music and film downloads amongst the data, including streamed as well as downloaded material presumably.

Then, an ISP will have to determine which is illegal v legal. There are many sources of legal downloads such as iTunes, Amazon and Jamendo. Likewise the BBC, Sky and Channel 4 now deliver film downloads amongst others and some of these make use of torrent techniques.

It’s been suggested that the volume of data downloaded marks out people illegally downloading. However, the increasing availability of TV programme legal downloads and music streaming services undermines this theory. Similarly, a few illegal downloads is presumably as illegal as many.

It’s a pity that the Government will not have to provide practical examples of how to implement such a requirement to demonstrate the effectiveness of such a regulation. As a result, ISPs will simply find themselves the whipping boys and scapegoats without this requirement having any material impact on piracy.

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