The British ISP TalkTalk has been working to show why banning people from the internet, based on unproven allegations of piracy, is a bad idea. Specifically, they have highlighted how many people still use WEP to protect their wireless networks from use by strangers, despite the fact that WEP encryption is easily compromised. That means it is easy for someone to use software tools to access a nearby network and then use it for illegal purposes. My own experience with wireless networks has demonstrated that people really will use them for criminal purposes if they can gain access.
Beyond that, the idea of cutting people off on the basis of three accusations alone runs fundamentally contrary to the presumption of innocence in our system of justice. It would inevitably be abused by copyright holders, and it would inevitably lead to innocent people being cut off from the internet, an increasingly vital part of life for almost everyone. Indeed, Finland recently declared broadband access a right.
To me, the fact that laws like this may well emerge in France, the UK, and elsewhere seems like another example of just how badly broken our intellectual property (IP) systems are, and how badly skewed they are towards protecting the rights of IP owners rather than the public at large. We would be a lot better off if patents were granted more selectively, if licensing of them was mandatory, if copyright was less well defended and expired sooner, and if fair use rights were more effectively legally enshrined. Hereâ€™s hoping â€˜pirate partiesâ€™ continue to proliferate, pushing back the IP laws that have become so unfairly weighted towards those who own the content.
After all, it needs to be remembered that there is nothing libertarian or natural about IP protection. Rather, content owners are having their property claims enforced by the mechanisms of the state. The justification for this is supposed to be that doing so serves the public interest; if that is no longer the case, the laws ought to be watered down or scrapped.