UK Changed Attitude to Pirates

It seems that the advisors of UK Prime Minister are already unhappy with forcing Internet service providers to send their customers notifications when they pirate films, music and TV shows.

A few days ago, the Prime Minister’s IP advisor claimed that it’s time to realize that the currently employed scheme might fail and the government needs to turn to something more enforceable – for example, disconnections, fines, and even jail sentences.

The industry experts confirm that the UK Digital Economy Act has been running for 4 years on and is seen as pointless in overwhelming majority of cases. The idea was to educate the casual file-sharer about legitimate alternatives in the hope the user would change their behavior.

But this plan failed, as serious file-sharers could ignore the rules by using foreign proxy websites which were untraceable. Ordinary users were receiving 4 notifications and then nothing was happening. The advisor believes that four years is enough for the government to understand that they need to start thinking what to do if these warnings are ignored by infringers.

He says that notifications and fines are first steps, but blocking access to the web and custodial sentencing for damaging infringers should not be ruled out either. Of course, jail won’t be immediately on the cards for infringers. Education has to come first, with a special attention paid to informing consumers that illegal file-sharing is not in their best long-term interests and is not socially acceptable. In the meantime, the industry will be forced to get their product right and attractive to consumers.

But once the authorities had won the hearts and minds of content consumers and offered suitable product, keeps the option of enforcement of copyright legislation on the table when all else has been exhausted. David Cameron replied that he would closely consider his advisor’s report.


Online Filters Block 20% of Popular Sites

About 20% of the most popular websites on the Internet are being blocked by the porn filters employed on local broadband and mobile networks. For example, it was noticed that a Porsche car dealership, a couple of feminist websites, a blog on the Syrian War and a political website suffered from the filters recently installed in the United Kingdom.

The Open Rights Group has recently surveyed the 100,000 most popular websites to discover that 19,000 of them were blocked by a fixed line or mobile ISP – and sometimes even by more than one provider.

In the United Kingdom, for example, 4 mobile networks have used filters for a while now, following a push by David Cameron. Broadband companies have caught up, introducing porn blocks that allow parents to screen out potentially harmful content. Every subscriber will be asked whether he or she wishes to apply a broadband filter by 2015. Adult content filters screen out pornography, along with suicide and self-harm related content, weapons and violence, gambling, drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Moreover, people can also decide to block dating, music and movie piracy, games and social networking.

The Open Rights Group explained that such filters can stop customers accessing your website, block political commentary or harm your education. In other words, the government pushes people into filtering lots of content that they simply don’t need to.

The examples are numerous. An American who moved to the UK wanted to read an article about recovering from childbirth on her mobile phone, but it was blocked by her mobile network, Three, who for some reason imposes a filter as default for all pay as you go customers.

A Porsche brokerage has recently found their website blocked by O2’s filter. Emails and calls brought no results in having the ban lifted, until the company began tweeting about the problem. All O2 responded with was “mistakes can happen”.

Syrian War commentator’s blog was screened out by EE, O2, Sky and Vodafone., writing about sexual health, violence against women and lesbian and gay rights, was blocked by TalkTalk a few months ago. The worst thing is that the ban boils down to advertising revenue.

Finally, The Guido Fawkes website is also blocked for subscribers who have selected to screen out all social media. This includes Facebook, Twitter, blogs and chat forums.

50% of UK Children Think Content Should Be Free

Almost half of children and teenagers in the United Kingdom think that people should be allowed to download content for free. The survey involved 614 children, aged 8-15, asking about their attitudes to online media and digital consumption. The results revealed that almost half of them agree that people should be able to download or access any content for free.

The surveyors confirm that the general consensus was that digital content should be free or at least cheaper than conventional content. It is not a secret that file-sharing is still popular amongst younger adults and children. People are motivated by cost, availability of content and convenience of the content. At the same time, the researchers note the growing usage of legitimate alternatives to file-sharing. Although younger adults demonstrate less concern and understanding about piracy and digital rights, they are keen to see punitive action taken against Internet service providers and search engines.

The researchers also point out that some of that belief may stem from a lack of faith in copyright. Only 7% of the respondents agreed that file-sharing is stealing, although almost half of them realized that it’s wrong to access material on the Internet without the creator’s permission. However, when asked about file-sharing like BitTorrent sites and file lockers, only 6% agreed that using the websites is easy and it has become normal.

As a result, it became clear that children aged 8-15, who are the key adopters of digital technology, are likely to know better how to access content without paying. At the moment, online file-sharing is most common amongst younger adults, with cost and availability being their key drivers.

The researchers realize that children in this generation have grown up with digital content and are used to having access to whatever they need, at the convenient time for them, sometimes even not paying for it. However, it should be said that it is not just file-sharing that drives the attitude. Therefore, Internet services offering a free service (normally ad-supported), like Spotify and YouTube, are very popular amongst teenagers.

The industry experts point out that all recent studies suggest the same solution to addressing illegal file-sharing: offering easy-to-use services at fair prices. However, the creative industry stubbornly continues to refuse to adapt to the reality and complain about everyone stealing from them.

US Supreme Court Prohibited Unwarranted Cellphone Search

The US Supreme Court has recently delivered a landmark endorsement of electronic privacy, claiming that police have to obtain a warrant if they want to search the contents of cellphones seized from people they have arrested.

The opinion of the court recognized that modern mobile phones store a digital record of nearly every aspect of their owners’ lives, and therefore may disclose a large volume of personal data if searched. The judges said the fact that people are now able to carry such information in hands doesn’t make the data less worthy of the protection. The court clearly said the police must get a warrant before searching a cell phone.

The court considered two separate cases connected with the searches of cell phones after people’s arrests in the US. Both individuals were convicted of crimes after data recovered from their phones led police to other evidence. The justices sided with their arguments saying that the warrantless cell phone searches weren’t permitted under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution, which protects US citizens from unreasonable searches.

The governments opposed that police could search digital content from cell phones in the same manner they are allowed to handle physical diaries or pictures held by someone at the time of their arrest.

The court acknowledged that by barring police from making warrantless searches, they complicate their lives. The justices officially admitted that their decision will influence the ability of law enforcement to fight crime.

Still, in the end the court decided that information stored on a cell phone in a digital form can’t itself be used to harm the police or to escape. As such, the police are allowed to examine the physical aspects of the device to make sure it won’t be used as a weapon. However, the information on the device can’t harm anyone.

One of the justices joined the court’s main ruling, but filed a separate opinion to suggest Congress and state legislatures be given leeway to design new rules which would limit the requirement to obtain a warrant in special cases. Privacy outfits welcomed the decision, calling it “revolutionary” and saying that it would help to protect the privacy rights of all US citizens. It is good that the court can recognize that the government’s ability to rummage through the private lives should be limited.