Don’t Disconnect Us

Today, an email dropped into my inbox from Number10.gov.uk; a website which allows each eligible member of the UK to sign petitions online which the government may then respond to. I was less than impressed with its contents to say the least.


Some time ago I signed an e-petition on The petition was created by Andrew Heaney, Executive Director of Strategy and Regulation of TalkTalk. The petition aims to “petition the Prime Minister to abolish the proposed law that will see alleged illegal file sharers disconnected from their broadband connections, without a fair trial.” I found, however, that the Government’s response was somewhat less than satisfactory.

“It is clear that online copyright infringement inflicts considerable damage on the UK’s creative economy including music, TV and film, games, sports and software. Industry estimates place this harm at £400m pa.

The Digital Economy Act includes a number of measures to tackle the problem and we expect these to be successful in significantly reducing online copyright infringement. However this is an area of rapid technological change and developing consumer behaviour. The Act therefore includes a reserve power to introduce further “technical” measures if the initial measures do not succeed. These technical measures would limit or restrict an infringers’ access to the internet. They do not include disconnection.”

First, as anyone of a sensible intellect knows, industry figures are more than likely to suffer from at very least cognitive dissonance and at worst out-right fabrication. After all, with so much money at stake why wouldn’t you make the problem look as bad as possible? He who shouts loudest has the floor.

Andrew’s particular gripe with the Digital Economy Act seems to be that illegal file sharers could just jump on the nearest unprotected or WEP protected network, file share and have the person who owns the network get disconnected through no fault of their own. We’re not all techies, after all, so it’s reasonable to assume most people have a poorly protected network (Andrew cites TalkTalk’s research saying this can be anywhere between 34% and 41% on any given street).

Interestingly, though the media industries seems to be screaming out that they’re failing due to illegal downloads (the thing the the Digital Economy Act discourages using the disconnection rule) the figures tell a different story. LibDemVoice.org cite The Register (who in turn cite Ofcom), saying that the figures show a “27 per cent and a rise in the consumption of digital media files, rather than discs, has slowed the decline in music retail earnings almost to a halt”. They go on to quote that…

“It is worth noting that this relative improvement in performance took place during a recession, when disposable incomes may well be squeezed.”

All that aside; I found the Government’s response to the petition woefully inadequate. Disappointing.

You can see the e-petition itself and the resulting response from government by clicking on the links.