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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 October 2007, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
Anti file-sharing laws considered
Lord Triesman
The government cannot tolerate stealing, said Lord Triesman
The UK government could legislate to crack down on illegal file-sharers, a senior politician has told the BBC's iPM programme.

Lord Triesman, the parliamentary Under Secretary for Innovation, Universities and Skills, said intellectual property theft would not be tolerated.

"If we can't get voluntary arrangements we will legislate," he said.

The comments could prove controversial with privacy advocates and internet service providers.

Lord Triesman called on internet service providers to take a "more activist role" in the problem of illegal file-sharing.

Data banks

There are ongoing talks between internet service providers and the music industry and these are, said Lord Triesman, "progressing more promisingly than people might have thought six months ago".

"For the most part I think there are going to be successful voluntary schemes between the creative industries and ISPs. Our preferred position is that we shouldn't have to regulate," he said.

He admitted that the technology necessary to track illegal file sharing would mean that "it is quite possible to know where it is happening and who it is happening with".

While he said that the government had no interest in "hounding 14-year-olds who shared music", it was intent on tracking down those who made multiple copies for profit.

"Where people have registered music as an intellectual property I believe we will be able to match data banks of that music to music going out and being exchanged on the net," he said.

"We have some simple choices to make. If creative artists can't earn a living as a result of the work they produce, then we will kill off creative artists and that would be a tragedy."

Mere conduit

Man being arrested
This week a man was arrested in connection with pirate music site

The debate centre around peer-to-peer (P2P) technology, applications that allow internet users to exchange files with each other directly or through a mediating server.

Computer users with the same type of P2P application can connect to each other and directly access files from one another's hard drives.

Some people are using peer-to-peer applications to copy or distribute files including copyrighted material such as music, films and software without paying royalties.

People who do this may be infringing the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

There have been various crack-downs on such applications. Most recently the UK-run members-only site OiNK was shut down and several properties in the UK and Holland were raided.

'Misbegotten idea'

The Internet Service Providers Association has always maintained that it cannot be held responsible for illegal peer-to-peer traffic because it is "merely a conduit" of such material.

"ISPA does not support abuses of copyright and intellectual property theft," said an ISPA spokesman.

He said: "However, ISPs cannot monitor or record the type of information passed over their network. ISPs are no more able to inspect and filter every single packet passing across their network than the Post Office is able to open every envelope."

"ISPs deal with many more packets of data each day than postal services and data protection legislation actually prevents ISPs from looking at the content of the packets sent," he added.

The British Phonographic Industry was pleased at the government's tough line.

"We greatly welcome the government reiterating its view that ISPs should work with us to tackle the problem of internet piracy, or else face legislation," said Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI.

"ISPs operate the pathways to digital music consumers. Through our talks with the ISP community we are hopeful that together we can arrive at voluntary co-operative agreements that work to the benefit of the whole digital marketplace," he added.

The iPM programme also spoke to renowned blogger Cory Doctorow who described the idea as "misbegotten".

"It represents the opinion of someone who doesn't understand technology very well, and hasn't really thought through the implications of what he's promising.

You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who's an actual computer scientist involved in digital signal processing who believes that you can accurately identify copyrighted works with any kind of reliability in a variety of situations," he said.

He believed the idea would createa "giant toxic pool of personally idenitifying private information" that ISPs would not be able to keep secret.

"You will dismantle the fundamentals of the democratic state, which is to be free in your person, your mind and your conversation from scrutiny and surveillance. So this is a really misbegotten idea," he told iPM.

Russian download site shut down
03 Jul 07 |  Technology
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19 Nov 06 |  Entertainment
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18 Oct 06 |  Entertainment


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