Peter Mandelson has, as expected, delivered an assault on filesharers at the C&binet Forum. He has laid out his intentions to submit legislation to parliament that would cut persistent file sharers off the web entirely, after a couple of warnings.
The process is known as "three strikes", and has recently been enacted in the face of extreme opposition in France. Following an accusation of piracy from a monitoring company, a user would be sent a warning letter.
Another warning letter would be sent if the user doesn't stop, and then after a third "strike" the internet connection being used would be disconnected from the Web permanently.
The legislation is intended to come into force by April 2010, with disconnections occurring in the spring of 2011. Mandelson says there could be an appeals process for those who believe they haven't shared the content they've been accused of. False positives have been revealed by a study at Washington University to be common among the companies that track P2P.
Mandelson began to draft laws on the subject, which he'd previously shown little interest in, just days after having a private dinner with David Geffen - a Hollywood producer and outspoken critic of file sharing. Mandelson says that downloading is "economically unsustainable", which flies in the face of recent studies and press releases from within the industry that say that UK Music is very healthy indeed.
There's fierce opposition to the proposals. ISP TalkTalk, which has long jousted with rights-holders on this issue has said that it's prepared to challenge the laws "in the courts". It's been suggested that the proposals, which would cut off an entire family if one individual was suspected of sharing, could be illegal under international law preventing groups being punished for the actions of an individual.
Mandelsons claims of just one in 20 web downloads being legal have also been picked apart by Ben Goldacre, who writes the Guardian's "Bad Science" column. He discovered that the figure originates from an "industry estimate" in a press release put out by a private legal firm called Rouse who specialise in intellectual property law.
Meanwhile, the original producers of the content are vehemently opposed to the moves. Graham Linehan, creator of Father Ted, Black Books and the IT Crowd, has blogged about the proposals, calling them "bullshit". The Featured Artists Coalition, which comprises of musicians, has long opposed three-strikes, though softened its stance recently following a confrontation with Lily Allen.
Legal music sites aren't in favour of the proposals, either. We7's CEO Steve Purdham told Pocket-lint that " File-sharing sites have risen in the gulf between what consumers wanted and what has been available". "Creating a variety of reasonable and sustainable models for providing music to consumers is key to ending rampant piracy. This is the approach that should be taken by the government rather than criminalising consumers and driving pirates further into the undergrowth".
Even MI5 has weighed in against Mandelson, saying that such laws would drive pirates underground and encrypted. Both the security services and the police claim that it'll make prosecution harder, "because it increases the workload significantly". They protested that the government's Mandelson-led U-turn on the issue, since the Digital Britain report was published, has left them little time to prepare a response.
And finally there's the UK Pirate Party, which formed earlier this year and has skyrocketed in membership following the government's announced plans. The party proposes a revamp of copyright law to allow for non-commercial sharing, as well as net neutrality laws and greater privacy and freedom of expression for individuals.
In the face of all that, it seems that Mandelson will have a tough time pushing through the content industry's proposals, especially with a general election looming. It remains to be seen how successful he'll be, but we'll keep you posted of the progress of the proposals.
In the meantime, let us know what you think of Mandelson's suggested laws in the comments. The biggest question for us, as pointed out by TechDirt, remains: "How will kicking people off the internet get them to buy more product?"