Write to your MP time

Posted on Tue 25 August 2009 in general

I've not sent many letters to my current MP since I moved down south. So today I was moved to send the following:

Dear James Paice,

I'm writing to you today to let you know about my views on the
Governments proposed Internet disconnection policy [1] on accusation
of illegal file sharing. While I agree that digital piracy is a
problem there are a number of issues with the current proposals.

* Identifying an IP address is not the same as identifying a person

All the current methods for tracking down digital pirates come down to
someone, somewhere logging an IP address. This is the address people
are assigned when they access the Internet. However it generally
doesn't identify a person, at best it identifies the broadband router
in someones house attached to the phone line or cable. If multiple
people share the connection there is no way to identify which one is
which. With wireless routers the offending person may be using the
network without the knowledge of the person who's router it is.

* No oversight of the data collection

There is typically no oversight of the 3rd party companies who monitor
the Internet for theft. As only an accusation is made the evidence is
never tested in a court of law. Without the oversight of a legal
process there is no chance of justice for the falsely accused.

* Wrong tool for the job

In the end even a draconian policy like this will not eliminate
file-sharing. The original "Gnutella"[2] network was a technical work
around to the fall of Napster [3], one of the first file sharing
technologies to get the attention of the media companies. I fully
expect a growth in anonymous networks and routine encryption of data
traffic as a response to legal and quasi-legal attempts to stop file
sharing. It is in essence a battle that will never be won as technical
measure continually evolve to work around legal threats. In the
meantime innocent people will be caught in the cross-fire and lose
what the Digital Britain report compared to a Human Right.

The correct tools are education and competition. Children need to be
educated about the rights and wrongs of illegal file-sharing  (while
remembering some things like Creative Commons [4] and Open Source
software [5] positively encourage it). At the same time the media
companies must provide competition to the pirate materials by offering
products people want. There is no point providing DRM [6] crippled
products at excessive prices and complaining the users prefer the
better quality pirated products.

* Internet Access is a Human right

As more and more of our access to information, government and society
becomes dependant on a decent Internet connection people without it
will suffer. If these people have lost access because of an unfounded
accusation by a rights holder then justice will not have been served.
By all means provide the rights holders with the ability to take
people to court and seek redress if their rights have been infringed.
However such a system has to be a balanced and fair. This is not what
the current government proposals offer.

I hope as we approach an election next year you can assure me that
your party would not follow the path being suggested by the current

I was unable to find your voting track record with respect to these
matters. I hope this letter leaves you better informed for future
votes in the house. I would be pleased to provide further
clarifications if anything is unclear. I can also point you towards
the Open Rights Group [7] who are a lobbying organisation I broadly

Yours sincerely,

Alex Bennee

[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8219652.stm
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnutella
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napster
[4] http://creativecommons.org/
[5] http://www.opensource.org/
[6] Digital Restrictions Management, digital locks that for example
prevent you using iTunes music with any player other than an iPod.
[7] http://www.openrightsgroup.org