A nationwide issue for the government, swathes of copyright-protected material has abused as a result of internet piracy. In 2014, it was revealed by The Guardian that 30% of Britons engaged in illegal viewing of media, with counterfeit DVDs still being a prominent contributor to the problem, costing the industry £500m a year.
In a surprise rebuttal from Hollywood director Lexi Alexander, this evidence was contested. She said that she thought ‘piracy is necessary because of country content restrictions’ and that the ‘freedom of access to content’ was right.
But now, in the dawn of 2017, where does the government lie on the issue of piracy?
UK ISPs are to begin sending out ‘educational letters’ notifying broadband customers identified as downloading copyright content illegally. These letters have been backed by BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky, and are part of a new government scheme to crack down on internet piracy.
The new scheme, however, is not comprehensive. In recent months we have seen internet surveillance peak to new, prying levels that caused Edward Snowden to attack the UK government when the Investigatory Powers Bill was passed in November of 2016.
The former NSA whistleblower compared Theresa May’s bill to compiling ‘a list of every book you’ve ever opened’. Nicknamed the ‘Snooper’s Charter’, the bill allows the government and police unparallelled powers in surveilling the public’s web and phone histories.
Signatures on a petition dedicated to the repealing of the act reached 130,000 shortly afterwards, with human rights group Liberty securing more than £35,000 in a crowdfunding effort to take the British government to court over the IP act (within its first 24 hours of appeal). The original goal of the crowdfunding campaign was £10,000, showing that the British public are passionate about their privacy, contrary to an opinion that there was a general ‘public apathy’ towards the bill prior to it being in force.
Continuing from the earlier assertion that the new government scheme is not comprehensive, it can be revealed why. Newer forms of piracy, including streaming and cyber-lockers, will not be included in the identification process made by ISPs.
Set to begin on January 17 this year, the plan to send out letters to ‘people identified as net pirates’ originally agreed in 2014 will come to fruition. The BBC said that it had seen a sample letter, which is headed with the customer’s telephone number. It reads:
”Get it Right from a Genuine Site’ has got in touch with us… Get it Right is a government-backed campaign acting for copyright owners who think their content’s been shared without their permission. It looks like someone has been using your broadband to share copyrighted material (that means things like music, films, sport or books). And as your broadband provider, we have to let you know when this happens.’
Get it Right moniters peer-to-peer networking, commonly known as ‘Torrenting’, where a single file is shared in parts across an internet connection between many users, until the file has gathered enough parts from other users to make the file whole, completing the download.
Torrenting itself is not illegal, but using the process for copyright-protected files, is.
Kodi, which hosts a plethora of addons, some of which allow users to stream illegally hosted content, is not included, alongside the aforementioned streaming services. Other set-top boxes which make use of similar software to pirate copyright-protected content are also left out of the scheme.
Ernesto van der Sar, editor of TorrentFreak, said:
‘Over the past several years most pirates in the UK have shifted towards direct download and streaming services. Since the piracy alerts only target peer to peer sharing, they will have less of an impact today than they would have had a few years ago… As for the educational part, most pirates are already aware of the legal alternatives. They simply have no desire to pay or can’t find what they want on authorised channels.’
No ‘repercussions’, following the delivery of such letters, however, have been explicity laid out by the government, prompting internet pirates perhaps to shrug their shoulders at the news of the scheme.