An email I wrote to my MP (using the very handy WriteToThem) regarding the UK Government’s so-called “three strikes” proposals to combat illegal filesharing.

Dear Ms Hillier,

I am writing to ask you to vote against the Government’s forthcoming Digital Economy Bill, unless the currently proposed measures to impair or disconnect without trial the internet connections of those accused of illegal filesharing are removed from said Bill.

Copyright holders are already entitled to initiate private lawsuits against those they believe to be infringing their rights. This of course involves a trial in court, with the accused party presumed innocent until proven guilty. Methods of detecting infringement are known to be unreliable, leading to false accusations, but currently this is the accuser’s problem.

The Government’s plans would remove the inconvenient (to the rights holder) need for a court case to punish the accused. The unreliability of detection would become an issue for every internet user, since these plans do not require proof of infringement, only repeated accusation.

This circumvention of justice is justified only by evidence produced by the rights holders themselves. It ignores evidence that the music industry has actually grown over the last five years, and that filesharing may be an opportunity for the content industries rather than a threat.

I am also very concerned about the precedent that would be set by these proposals. Music and film are not the only industries whose business models have been shaken by the emergence of new technology. The news industry, for example, is considering charging for its previously free online content. Without question people will find ways to circumvent these “paywalls” and access the content for free. Will we then allow news publishers to join in selecting people for disconnection? I myself, as an independent software developer, am a creator of copyrighted works. Can I disconnect people I believe have used my work without permission? If not, why can the BPI do it but not me?

I believe the Government’s plans to be short-sighted in conception, wrong in principle, and likely in practice to do more harm than good. I will vote against any politician who supports them.

I also ask you to sign Early Day Motion 1997, which echoes many of these sentiments.

Thank you for reading.

Yours sincerely,

Sam Stokes

Update 2009/12/02: response

Ms Hillier was kind enough to respond by post to my email. I will not reproduce her response here, as she has not given her consent to publish it; however I have blogged about the further email I sent in reply.

Since the Digital Economy Bill was published between my first email and my second, the latter brings up some new points, in particular regarding the lack of evidence to justify these measures and the broad powers to be given to the Secretary of State.