Not Even The Threat Of Prison Deters Information Sharing

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This week the UK’s High Court rejected complaints from two of the country’s largest ISPs that the Digital Economy Act might be unlawful.

This means that the controversial legislation will go ahead. Errant Internet subscribers will be sent scary letters informing them that they – or someone who has used their connection – have been caught sharing files and if they keep doing it, they might be punished in the future.

That punishment is yet to be set, although it could conceivably mean that a subscriber will have their connection throttled or disconnected for a period. They won’t, however, be facing anything as drastic as a jail sentence.

But if they did, would it deter them from sharing information deemed to be illegal?

In recent weeks in the UK, several high-profile celebrities and sports stars have succeeded in getting High Court injunctions banning newspapers from printing stories about their behaviour. In one, a married TV star was granted an unbelievable worldwide order, banning publication of details about his private life – anywhere, ever.

The punishment for breaking these injunctions – i.e sharing information on who are involved and what they have done – is a serious offense that could result in people going to prison.

Unsurprisingly the average internet user – the people targeted by the DEA – just don’t give a damn. Although the injunctions cover the mainstream press and also discussion on Internet sites such as Twitter, searching for ‘injunction’ plus the one name in the public domain – that of reality TV ‘star’ Imogen Thomas – and all names are revealed. Not just one tweet but dozens and dozens. Streisand Effect here we come.

Just like most illicit files on the Internet, all this chatter will have come from just a small number of informed sources – the ‘seeds’ of the information if you will.

Once information is out there – be it an unauthorized music track or celebrity gossip – it just can’t be stopped. And not even the highest court in the land with the scariest threats around can do anything about it.

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