UK Government, Illegal Downloads

A draft proposal was leaked this week that indicated that the UK government was considering banning people from the internet who downloaded music and films illegally.

There have been a number of responses to this leak already ranging from the polite "it’s a nice idea but just how do you think the internet works you twat?" to the more succinct "you total mongoloid spacs".

Yes, they were my responses! Clever you!

DownloadPoliticians are, by and large, inept at their jobs. Politicians who become ministers are, without fail, totally inept at their jobs. This is because experience in any particular field is seen as coincidental at best to running the associated department. A politician who used to be a head teacher is more likely to be promoted to the cabinet position of Minister of Defence than anything in the education sector due to the governmental standard No That’s Just What They’ll Be Expecting Us To Do approach to employment.

So, when the government says it’s looking into enforcing sweeping new powers on the internet you can be sure of one thing: the chance that anyone in the consultation process knew what the internet was or had read a pamphlet that explained how the internet worked is 0% (with a +/- 0 margin of error).

Can you actually detect when someone is downloading something illegally?

Yes. If the something they are downloading is known to be illegal. And if the something hasn’t been encrypted in a new way masking its signature from known illegal packets. And if you can be sure the download isn’t merely being passed through inadvertently via a legal peering system. And if you can be sure the machine doing the downloading hasn’t been zombified.

Of course, in order to be sure that what’s being downloaded is illegal it would be necessary to decrypt and reassemble traffic bound for a destination and compare it against something known to be illegal.

So the internet service providers would have to have copies of everything illegal to download to match against. Think about that!

And they’d have to have the powers and ability to read and decode everything sent across the internet. Everything. Personal emails. Personal pictures. Business proposals. Everything.

Remember: that’s not the police with the powers. That’s not a court-ordered subpoena to inspect your private communications because there’s evidence you’re a wrongdoer. That’s the ISPs with the powers. That’s BT getting the power, or AOL, or Nildram, or Virgin. Those are the people not only getting the power but being forced to use that power and report back to the government so that they can then be instructed to enforce blocking orders.

Technically feasible? Just about, initially, at huge cost to absolutely everyone. But – and here’s the important thing – it’s doomed to failure. There will be workarounds. They’ll be discovered and patches rolled out to the ISPs to lock them down in time but … there’ll be new workarounds. And newer ones. And there will be problems. People accused wrongly, for instance. Rest assured though that there will subsequently be lengthy investigations into wrongful accusations with the onus on the innocent to prove their status.

It’ll hit everyone, making life worse and more expensive for everyone from users to businesses and, most importantly, won’t have the slightest effect in curbing illegal downloads.

I know it, you know it, the ISPs know it. The government doesn’t know it. But then, it’s made up of politicians so it doesn’t really know much.

The proposal is ludicrous. Do not be surprised in the near future when you hear about a leaked document supporting a move to clamp down on the letter ‘m’ on the internet in order to assuage downloads of music, mp3s, films, and movies. It’s about as likely to be successful.

Author: Mark

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  1. What the hell are you doing updating three days in a row? You never update three days in a row.

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  2. I have typing diarrhoea. I’m taking plenty of fluids though so it’ll probably ease off very soon.

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  3. I have been following the news through a website called zeropaid. It is alarming to see how governments are caving in to the demands of organizations like the RIAA . Here in the US it is a being clocked under the guise of "national security" but it is still chilling and very Big Brother. I enjoyed your discourse.

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  4. Spot on Mark. Even though it has your usual humorous twist, this is a serious post. Presumably, if ISPs had to do all this traffic checking it would add a significant processing load and slow the internet down too?

    More importantly, the proposal to ban people from the internet could have serious implications. For many people (and as time goes on this will only get worse) the internet connection could now be considered an essential utility (like water, gas, electricity etc.). If you deny someone access to the internet you deny them access to online banking, shopping, and other essential information services (such as the governments own website).

    As companies and government departments push to cut costs more and more, facilities are being transferred online, with a cost penalty for doing it conventionally, or sometimes no such option at all. There will probably come a time in the near future where it will be almost impossible to operate within society without access to an internet connection.

    Perhaps our wonderful government will use our taxes to finance a huge number of public access points (which they can later privatise as internet cafes for a huge capital gain which us taxpayers will see little benefit from). But what am I saying? First, they are going to have to drag our country into the modern age and actually make our inadequate and under-invested infrastruture capable of supporting a broadband connection to every home.

    Oh, but I mustn’t get started on that – for a supposedly developed country, some of our ancient and creaking Victorian infra-structure is long overdue for an overhaul.

    …and breathe Grazor… relax… [/rant]

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  5. Moderation said …
    There are one or more comments awaiting moderation on this post as well. Exciting, isn’t it!?!

    No Mark, your post moderation message is not exciting.

    Having just fired myself up to post a semi-rant, your message means I am unable to check what I’ve posted and edit all the usual spelling mistakes I leave in by mistake. If my resultant (unedited) post makes me look illiterate I shall hold you personally responsible. 😉

    Post Edit: Gaaah!!! …and even worse, this post wasn’t moderated so it now appears out of order and makes it look like I’m complaining about something that hasn’t even happened yet. I’m desperately trying to remember what it was in my original post that triggered your moderation trap – I mean, it practically accused me of being a Spambot!!!

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  6. Sorry Grazor, I think "online banking" triggered the spam filter. You’re not a spambot to me.

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  7. Now it is apparent what these so-called "fair usage limits" are. The major ISPs, particularly Virgin Media, say it’s to ensure everyone gets a fair deal. However, what they’re really saying is this:

    Branson: Oh noes! Our userz r leechin again!1
    Dubens: Awwz. How we gun downl0ad teh moviez now?!?!
    Leahy: It’s kewl. We’re gun haxx0r dem laterz n make up sum lawz n stuff, lol.
    Dubens: ROFL, ur so l33t.
    Leahy: I noes, lol.
    Branson: kekekekekekekeke XD

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  8. I suspect this proposal by the UK government is a smoke screen.

    They know the proposal is a non-starter (I hope) and their real goal might be something as simple as raising awareness. Subtely getting the word out to net-naive parents that downloading films is in fact, rather naughty.

    Or maybe they are just trying to scare the young teenagers by threatning to take away their access to social networking sites the way a parent might threaten to cancel Christmas.

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  9. The government don’t do smoke screens. Industry people do bribes. Ministers do their bidding. Policy groups do waste time and money on non starter investigations. Government for the people and by the people is a laugh.

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