U.K. Proposes To Cut-Off Pirates Internet Connections

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Her Majesty's long battle against piracy has taken a tough turn, with U.K. officials now threatening to cut off the scoundrels' Internet access.

Internet disconnection, which beats getting one's head chopped off, is more than a year away from being implemented, according to news reports. It comes as the London government seeks new tools to fight illegal peer-to-peer file sharing.

Britain's rules are modeled after those being proposed in France, were illegal file sharing could eventually result in a one-year suspension of Internet service. Naturally, the U.K.'s top ISPs are opposed to being forced to assume the role of Internet police officers.

Under the British proposal, those caught illegally sharing copyrighted material would first receive warning letters, but persistent violators could face Internet slowdowns and other measures, with disconnection to last-resort outcome.

"It must become clear that the days of consequence-free widespread online infringement are over," Business Secretary Peter Mandelson told a cabinet creative industries conference (quoted by Reuters). "Technical measures will be a last resort and I have no expectation of mass suspensions."

The new British law could be passed by April, but actual disconnections would not take place for another year. The government is hoping voluntary compliance will improve once Internet pirates are threatened with losing their connectivity.

France is considering has a similar law that allows repeated ("three-strikes") piracy to be met with an Internet suspension of up to one year. Fines and even prison are also a possibility for French pirates.

South Korea already has such a law and Singapore is considering such a measure.

My take: I like this idea a whole lot more than the lawsuits that are the favorite weapon of rights owners in the U.S. The British proposal aims and public education and voluntary compliance--noble goals--but ends with disconnection.

Sure, if you want an Internet connection badly enough you will still be able to get one, regardless of being cut-off.

However, the heavy-handed approach taken here elevates violators almost to Robin Hood status and generates more sympathy for those taken to court than it does compliance.

The U.S. needs to rethink how we deal with Internet pirates, and Her Majesty's approach seems sound. If it does not work, they can always make offenders walk the plank.

David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

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