Mandelson's filesharing Corfu link denied

Peer-to-peer filesharing crackdown proposals announced
Peer-to-peer filesharing crackdown proposals announced

By Alex Stevenson

Peter Mandelson's recent dinner with Hollywood mogul David Geffen is unrelated to today's crackdown on internet piracy, the government has insisted.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has strengthened the proposals for dealing with unlawful peer-to-peer filesharing, announcing plans to suspend internet access for persistent users.

Several newspapers have reported a potential link between the decision and a private dinner Lord Mandelson had with Mr Geffen at Nat Rothschild's Corfu villa.

Any suggestion of influence being brought to bear on the business secretary has been brushed away by the government.

"I believe they had dinner, but they absolutely didn't discuss any peer-to-peer file-sharing," a spokesperson said.

Only two months have passed since the publication of Digital Britain, the government's strategic vision for ensuring the UK remains a major player in the global digital economy.

The white paper proposed that media watchdog Ofcom carefully work through which 'technical measures' are needed to combat internet piracy. These included intermediate measures like bandwidth reduction or protocol blocking.

Now the government has decided waiting until 2012 is too long and is prepared to add account suspension to the list of measures.

It has extended the relevant consultation until September 29th.

"Technology and consumer behaviour is fast-changing and it's important that Ofcom has the flexibility to respond quickly to deal with unlawful file-sharing," Digital Britain minister Stephen Timms said.

"We've been listening carefully to responses to the consultation this far, and it's become clear there are widespread concerns that the plans as they stand could delay action, impacting unfairly upon rights holders.

"So we look forward to hearing views on our new ideas, which along with those already received, will help us determine the best way to tackle this complex challenge."

Stephen Carter had written the original Digital Britain report but left the government soon after completing the job, balancing the tough line backed by the creative industries with the looser approach preferred by internet service providers.

Filesharing campaigners have been angered by today's announcement. Pirate party leader Andrew Robertson told he believed the move threatened to undermine basic principles of justice.

"They are planning to cut off the internet connection of whole families, completely bypassing the whole legal system. Justice isn't supposed to work like that," he said.

He pointed out the extended consultation still only gave stakeholders five weeks to respond, "which breaches their own rules" requiring a 12-week consultation period.

The French and Spanish legal systems have already seen rulings stating barring internet access is against European law and Mr Robertson backed suggestions the proposal could breach the Human Rights Act if it becomes law.

"It's certainly heading in that direction," he warned.

Unlawful peer-to-peer filesharing costs the British music industry £180 million every year, according to the BPI.


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