File-sharing Legislation Consultation Mark 124

July 7, 2009

On 16 June, when the BERR (or was it the BIS by then) launched its latest consultation on legislation on file-sharing, I was walking in my hiking boots across Goswick Sands to Holy Island against a stiff headwind. That explains why we did not cover the launch on the SCL site – I just did not notice it and, quite frankly, if I had noticed, I don’t think I would have cared as I had more pressing matters on my mind, especially the tide and intimations of mortality. Unsuitably shod and trudging through soft sand against a stiff wind, with an unstoppable tide about to wash away the preferred route – well, that’s prevention of illegal file-sharing in a nutshell.

Now that I {i}have{/i} noticed the consultation (which is {here:}), should I care?

The ‘indicative time line’ for the steps following completion of the consultation (which closes on 15 September) assumes a government response on 15 December. Who knows, it might be just the Xmas present holders of IP rights were hoping for. But I cannot help but suspect that it will be all wrapping and bows and no toys because the ‘indicative time line’ then moves on to ‘Dateline Zero’ (you couldn’t make it up), which is Royal Assent to the legislation that they have in mind. This is followed by zero plus 8 months, when notification to the EU of a near final code takes place and so on, in perfectly sensible steps. Sensible steps if you ignore the elephant in the room – perhaps it is hiding behind the oak tree.

Now it may be that the one and only right solution will be found and, notwithstanding the facile mocking in the title of this piece, I am all for good consultation. But anyone who has read a paper in the last year is likely to think it is rather pointless. It seems extremely likely that ‘Dateline Zero’ will in fact be the day after the general election and, whatever the virtues of the plan that emerges in this exercise, a new minister in the BERR, BIS or (as it may by then be known) BST will want to add a gloss, consult internationally and {i}maybe{/i} even add an idea.

So I really cannot bring myself to get excited about this when I can expend my effort more usefully on important tasks, like constantly checking the Ashes score.

I do have a tip from Goswick Sands though, for whoever gets to make the final decisions. Accept that you are going to get your feet wet and that the technology is unlikely to provide a solution (it was easier barefoot), accept that it is all going to take a long time (it did) and, above all, take a good look at that tide table before you set off. The tide does still seem to be coming in.