Speeding Up the Snail

August 24, 2009

When I first saw the BIS proposals for action about file-sharing, I was rather critical of the ‘indicative time line’ and the very wonderful ‘Dateline Zero’ {see File-sharing Legislation Consultation Mark 124: http://www.scl.org/site.aspx?i=bp12507}. Now it is all going to happen more quickly, apparently at the speed of light as {new proposals: http://www.scl.org/site.aspx?i=ne12790} have been published, allegedly under pressure from Lord Mandelson, which cut out some of the stages and raise the spectre of sending offenders into cyber-exile (ie cutting off their Internet access).

Whatever the arguments for and against the proposals, I still feel that the exercise is an empty one. This is mainly because it is not likely that the Digital Economy Bill will be passed before the election and it is extremely likely that it will not thereafter be resurrected. They may be speeding up the snail but it’s never going to get there anyway.

One other factor is that the influence of Brussels on the issue is likely to be crucial and the arguments there are far from over. I am also very much aware that some of what is proposed is happening anyway. Look at {Karoo: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8166640.stm} and routine throttling of broadband use. (I am currently looking at a quote from the senior product manager for Sky Broadband and Talk: ‘if customers use too much, we restrict their download speeds’.)

So it may all have a lot less impact than is feared by the most vocal opponents – indeed my guess is that it will have no impact at all. But we do need to face these issues properly in the UK some time. If a Conservative Government faces the problem, will it be in the context of EU insistence on action to protect rights holders? Now that would make for an interesting dilemma for the natural supporters of the party.