Illicit P2P File-Sharing and the law
Much of the discussion around the UK government’s Consultation on Legislation to Address Illicit P2P File-Sharing has been about whether the penalty of internet disconnection is too severe, or about what is or is not legal, or about what should be legal.
I’d like to talk about something else: what happens when someone is accused of doing something illegal. What happens is that we go through the criminal justice system. People who break the law are sentenced by a judge after due legal process. The sentence passed takes into account previous convictions, so repeat offenders are properly dealt with.
The “creative industries” think the law is too slow and want to be able to directly punish people, bypassing the legal process.
The government is proposing that, in the interests of expediency, Ofcom or a government minister can act as judge and jury. There is nothing special about the crime of illegal file sharing that means extrajudicial powers of punishment should be granted either to Ofcom or to ministers.
Once a minister has this power, who’s to say their judgement won’t be biased by, say, the fact that the accused has a blog that is critical of the government.
Mandelson seems to want to create a Judge Dredd for the internet. And the most frightening thing is that, with the current cabinet, he would be Judge Dredd.