Britain to criminalise internet use?

A report in the Financial Times indicates that British politicians are having a real go at asserting control over the internet, at least as far as hapless UK citizens are concerned..

Internet piracy regulations planned for UK.
By Ben Fenton and Tim Bradshaw

Ministers intend to pass regulations on internet piracy requiring service providers to tell customers they suspect of illegally downloading films and music that they are breaking the law, says the draft report by Lord Carter. It would also make them collect data on serious and repeated infringers of copyright law, which would then be made available to music companies or other rights-holders who can produce a court order for them to be handed over.

Note the new element: it becomes an offence to download content that the government doesn’t want you to.  Kim Jong Il will be nodding in approval. 

This means anyone who accesses a web page containing material which is legal in the US but not in the UK — easy to do, since UK copyright is so oppressive — will be committing an offence.  Anyone who (gasp) digitises a text which turns out to be in copyright will presumably be hauled before a court.  Not that many people in the UK do such digitisation — the copyright law sees to that — but those who do will take their liberty in their hands when they do.  Very, very nasty.

The public has not been consulted on whether it wants this, of course.  The plan has been drawn up by the government, in consultation with industry, for the benefit of both.  Industry gains the opportunity to criminalise people; government gets more control over what the people are allowed to see.

It does make you wonder, tho, why anyone lives in Britain, with its innumerable laws and speed-cameras, and its lack of any guarantee of free speech.  A less free society in the West it would be hard to envisage.

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