Labour MP: Disconnecting File-Sharers is Futile

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With the support of at least 18 other politicians, UK Labour Party MP Tom Watson has tabled an Early Day Motion in which he questions government proposals to disconnect or throttle alleged file-sharers. Calling the measures "futile," Watson says those accused should have the right to legal redress in a court of law.

Tom Watson is a Labour Party politician for West Bromwich East in the United Kingdom. Famous for becoming the first MP to start his own blog, Watson was a Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office until his resignation in June this year.

During his time in the Cabinet Office, Watson says he spent 18 months “immersed in conversation with the UK’s digital pioneers” and is convinced that the country’s economic future depends on “developing a set of economic and regulatory arrangements (which includes copyright, the legislative mechanism at the heart of the filesharing debate) to hothouse our digital natives”.

Watson has been most vocal in his opposition to the proposals by the government to throttle, disconnect or otherwise interfere with the Internet connections of alleged file-sharers. “Not only do the sanctions ultimately risk criminalising a large proportion of UK citizens,” he said, “they also attach an unbearable regulatory burden on an emerging technology that has the power to transform society, with no guarantees at the end that our artists and our culture will get any richer.”

Taking his opposition to these proposals to the next level, Watson has now tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) on the issue. An EDM is a device used by Members of Parliament to demonstrate the level of support among other MPs for a particular point of view. Although EDMs tend not to achieve results directly, they can attract the attention of the press, which fosters further debate and discussion.

Tom Watson – EDM 1997 – ILLICIT FILE SHARING – 12.10.2009

That this House notes with concern the Government’s proposals on file sharing which would allow rights holders to request internet service providers to disconnect for a period of time, or throttle, the internet connection of people who may be accused of copyright infringement via peer to peer networks; believes that disconnecting alleged offenders will be futile given that it is relatively easy for determined file-sharers to mask their identity or their activity to avoid detection; acknowledges that illicit file-sharing only costs rights-holders money when people download infringing content in preference to buying it; further notes that identifying offenders using the Internet Protocol address of a specific machine may punish those who share a web connection; and calls on the Government to ensure that any citizen accused of illicit file-sharing is given the right to legal redress in a court of law before sanctions are imposed.

At the time of writing this EDM tabled by Tom Watson has the support of 18 other MPs, and not solely from his own Labour Party either. Support is coming in from across the political spectrum, from Labour through to their opposition in the Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats, Social Democratic and Labour Party and Plaid Cymru.


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