Saturday, July 5, 2008

Get off your butt and write to your MEP. NOW.

OK, guys, this is serious. On Monday, the EU plans to introduce an anti-filesharing law that could see you banned from using the Net, even if you've never torrented a TV show or ripped an mp3 in your life. It's undemocratic, it's draconian, and quite frankly it's bloody terrifying.

Imagine not being able to stay in touch with your friends or family via Skype, MSN, or email; not being able to play games; not having access to news; not being able to fill in your tax return; not being able to do your homework; not being able to book a flight or check a train timetable; not being able to find out about the most basic things. If, like me, you're a parent, imagine having to tell your kids that they're the only kids in the class who can't go online. Just think for a moment about the things you've used the Net for in the last week, and imagine living without them. If you lose your phone connection, how long does it take you to start crawling walls? Two days? Three? Maybe a whole week? You get the picture.

So how does this law work?

If your ISP determines that you are filesharing (note, they decide, not a court, and they don't have to prove it), they are obliged to give you two warnings, and then on the third "offence" you are cut off from the Net. You will have no right of appeal.

This is not a joke. They plan to do this now as part of a huge telecoms reform package. See - it's by a specialist in cyber-law, and explains exactly why this is so scary, and how the EU is bringing it in by stealth.

Did you know about it? No? Convenient, huh? I wouldn't have known about it if Hugh hadn't called me an hour ago and told me.

And we have just under 48 hours to stop it.

Don't just sit there and moan about how terrible this is, and how it should be stopped. You can help stop it. Just do two things. If you're a European, write to your MEP, this weekend. If you're in the UK, use And tell all your friends to do the same. Monday will be too late.

(If you're a European from outside the UK, please let me know via the comments of any equivalent sites for your country. Thanks. will at least tell you who your MEPs are, and may have a link to a Web site or email address.)

It can work - one of my MEPs, Graham Booth, has already replied and told me he will be voting against this law.

If you're not sure what to say, here's what I wrote.

I have just found out about the plan to include a "three strikes" directive in the new Telecoms legislation (la quadrature) which is scheduled for voting on Monday, July 7. This legislation means that anyone determined three times by their Internet Service Provider to be downloading copyrighted material would be disconnected from the Internet.

This is a dangerous piece of legislation for a number of reasons, but most importantly:

1. There is no legal safeguard. The sanction is at the sole discretion of a commercial company, and there is no burden of proof on their part or possibility of redress.

2. The punishment is unduly harsh. The Internet is now the dominant means of communication. Denying someone access to the Net denies them access to communication with friends an family; access to shops, goods and services; access to educational materials; access to news, support materials, and information. It may affect their ability to work by denying them the opportunity to work from home, or may close down their business. The Government itself is keen to try and encourage citizens to make more use of online services, such as online tax returns, tax credits, or training courses, and has recognised the importance of getting people to use the Net. Disconnecting people is draconian.

3. This is collective punishment. Disconnection would apply to all members of a household, regardless of who had committed the offence, or whether they even knew about it. The legislation makes it clear that sanctions would apply even if the "offender" were ignorant of the offence being committed.

4. The proposal is technically flawed. The ISP can only identify the computer involved (technically, its IP address), and not the individual. There are many circumstances in which this can be misleading. Without going into detail, your computer could appear to be involved in filesharing if someone breaks into your wireless network; if your computer is infected with malware; or if you allow a guest to access the Net using their laptop.

While I can appreciate the desire of rights holders to address the issue of copyright violations, this is not an appropriate way to deal with it. The issue needs to be carefully thought through and debated, and not sneaked through as part of a package containing some 800 amendments.

Please vote to strike down this legislation on Monday.

Yours sincerely,

Feel free to use this as a template.

Now tell your friends.

Thank you.

1 comment:

Rob said...

How to find your Non-UK MEPs: