Driven largely by the big-label international music business, proposals for disconnecting alleged file-sharers are now common in many countries. Having achieved some kind of momentum in France, the lobbying shifted focus to the UK, with Lord Mandelson advocating harsh punishment for persistent infringers, or more accurately, those that are persistently accused.
Opposition to such plans are widespread, but until recently, public opinion hadn’t been tested in a measurable way. Today we have a much clearer idea, as results from a YouGov poll commissioned by the Open Rights Group have been released.
A significant 68% of those surveyed felt that individuals accused of illicit file-sharing should have the right to a fair trial before their accounts were disconnected or otherwise interfered with as punishment.
Just 16% of respondents said they would be happy for Internet users to have their accounts automatically suspended once their ISP had received ‘a number of accusations.’
While 44% said the proposals would not influence their vote, just under a third of respondents (31%) said they would be ‘much less likely’ to vote for a political party that endorsed disconnection from the Internet without a trial. Just 7% said they were more likely to support a party bringing in such sanctions.
In this digital age, Internet connectivity is becoming more and more important for us to carry out everyday tasks, and as time presses on we all becoming more and more reliant on our gateway to the online world. So just how would disconnection affect the respondents ability to carry out various tasks?
19% of respondents said their ability to work and conduct their education would be completely disrupted following disconnection, with 23% labeling the disruption as ‘fair’.
When the focus is placed on processes such as online shopping or home banking, 30% said disconnection would completely disrupt their activities, with an additional 43% calling the problem caused as ‘fair’.
Jim Killock, executive director at the Open Rights Group, feels that the government is out of step.
‘Our conclusion must be that this is a politically unwise move, that will be unpopular and a vote loser for its architects,’ he said, noting that such measures will fail to meet their objectives. ‘[They] won’t make a single penny for artists, or help online music businesses get off the ground,’ he added.
While the Open Rights Group is aware why the government has gone down this ‘disastrous’ route, Killock says they are not prepared to watch the rights of the people being taken away.
‘The right to freedom of expression, a fair trial, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty: and for proportionate punishments, these are basic principles on which democratic societies are built,’ he said.