British ISPs sign up for surveillance and throttling of accused file-sharers

Jen sez, "This is a link to a Times Online article describing an ISP surveillance and throttling scheme announced by the UK government today. It's unclear what proof is required before you're 'blacklisted.' Seems to be what the UK decided to do instead of 'three strikes, you're out.'"
Parents whose children download music and films illegally will be blacklisted and have their internet access curbed under government reforms to fight online piracy.

Households that ignore warnings will be subjected to online surveillance and their internet speeds will be reduced, making it very difficult for them to download large files.

The measures, the first of their kind in the world, will be announced today by Baroness Vadera, who brokered the deal between internet service providers and Ofcom, the telecoms body.

Link (Thanks, Jen!)

Update: Danny sez, "ORG has links to the consultation, the memorandum of understanding the ISPs have signed, and how to get involved."


  1. Hmmm…I wish I were in a position to run a British ISP. Start one, refuse to sign on to the agreement, advertise it as “go nuts, unlike six other companies we could name”, and gain a good bit of market share as a result. I bet I could even charge a fair chunk more since there’s an obvious point of differentiation and it’s one a lot of people care about these days.

    The government either:

    1) Passes a law forcing all ISPs to sign up. Who cares? I’ve got a bunch of market share already and the other ISPs have no competitive advantage over me that gets it back since they have to follow the law too.

    2) Ignores me (or likelier, “postures uselessly and in ignorable fashion”) and I continue to profit.

    Seems like a win-win for any newcomer to the market, which has to be the first time in history a stupid industrial relations law *favours* newcomers instead of the incumbents.

    I’d applaud the Labour Party for their Machiavellian strategic brilliance in smashing the UK’s broadband oligopoly, but this is the Labour Party — I’m sure it’s just an accident….

  2. trust this shitty, shitty country to be pioneers in internet surveillance.

    i fucking hate this goverment, but know that no following one will relinquish the paranoid controls implemented by this one.

  3. #2 pauldrye:

    Or 3) turns a blind eye (or covertly assists) as the big media companies sue the fsck out of you, making you the example of what happens to those who put the interests of individuals before the interests of multinational corporations.

  4. A sad day to learn this. As someone who has been using the interwebs for a long time, I recall discussions online that some day the web will not be run by “the people”, but will be corporate controlled and/or Government controlled. We’ve seen the web overtaken by the corporations, but now this. A sad day for all of us netizens. What’s next? Soon a license (with a hefty registration fee) to be able to surf the web? You can’t post a comment with first showing/swiping your gov issued ID card? It’s just a matter of time.

  5. I’m pretty sure that BT has been throttling my speed anyway for downloading a lot.

    I phoned the bastards up the other day to ask why I was only getting 70-odd kbps. They asked if I downloaded a lot. I said yes. They said that a restriction had been placed on the line and I asked why. They said that they would remove the restriction, but to find out why it had been imposed they would have to connect me to another department.

    Since this usually involves a couple of hours of listening to a badly-looped seven second segment of saxophone music (boy I’d like to per-play royalties on THAT piece of music) while you wait for someone who has no idea why you are there to condescend to talk to you, I declined.

    Anyone else had this?

  6. I think we almost all agree that separation of Internet and State is the way to go. But, if they MUST meddle, I wish they would do a little bit more to protect the people, and not Big Copyright. Bot-nets, spammers, phishers and scammers. If you want to fight crime, there’s a start.

  7. it’s just a typo. Little known fact, but Lord Vader has been married a long, long time. In any case, it is best for all the Baronness turns her attention to these matters – we were running out of virgins for her daily ablutions.

  8. Ed_G:

    That loop wouldn’t happen to be the bridge on Yakety Sax, would it? so terribly apropos.


    “Vadera” – ?


  9. rotating hacker war on the ISPs to teach them who is boss? Make an example of the worst one first?

  10. what, no trial? Is there no due process in Britain?

    And that stuff about online surveillance is creepy.

  11. which is the best ISP to change to? tomorrow i will be changing to one the doesn’t do the equivilent of opening my post and shitting in the envelope.


    Sadly not, because then I’d spend the time clutching my sides, tears streaming down my face because I was laughing so hard.

    As it is I spend the time clutching my sides, tears streaming down my face because the stress is causing my intestines to prolapse.

  13. Good call #11.

    Fuck ’em, it’s only the six very worst ISPs you could possibly have anyway. If you use any of them, it’s your own fault. I pay extra to a small ISP for unlimited bandwidth & decent upstream. Push comes to shove & all the little guys have to join in, drop to a lower package & spend the savings on a seedbox hosted somewhere sensible. Or, wait for whatever new P2P protocol comes along in response to their half-assed IP capturing scheme and stamps all over it. Nothing like a bit of a threat to spur evolution amirite?

  14. …”Baroness Vadera”? Now you kids outside of the US know why we denounced and deposed so-called “royalty” and “nobility” positions. Too much disruption of politics and life by those who were nothing but another in a long line produced by selective inbreeding.

  15. Oh well, I guess the internet was good while it lasted. But now it is the ePocalypse, end times for the internet… Six Telcos and a government who “…causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

  16. Your link is broke, OM, need the enter the entire address. (I’ve noticed this is really common).

  17. #16:

    Except that “Baroness Vadera” is neither a member of a long line nor a product of selective inbreeding. She is not from the nobility, she is a political appointee, made last year. None of the actual nobility would ever get involved in this sort of business, even if they legally could (which they can’t: we have laws banning them from running for public office).

    Being a political peer means that you are working for the Prime Minister in an official position, but you failed to get elected, so he shoved you into the peerage to get you into the cabinet.

    This particular example is a really nasty piece of work. Even some of the politicians in her own party refuse to deal with her, and British politicians are legally required to be polite to each other (I’m not kidding, we have some bizarre laws). She has been given a series of unimportant roles (the internet is unimportant in the eyes of the UK government) and hasn’t kept any of them for very long.

    Clearly, she knows where some bodies are buried.

  18. So Cory–tell us again why you choose to live in that stupid country? I’m being serious; you must have addressed this before but it just doesn’t seem like your kind of place. You couldn’t pay me to live there, myself.

  19. There’ll always be a way around stuff. A few determined coders can always move faster than a big company or government legislation. I guess the measures will be largely aimed to torrents. It would be interesting to see what they could do against usenet through SSL.

  20. It’s just sabre rattling horse shit inspired by the BPI. I mean was it not Virgin discovered after they sent out their “cease or we’ll turn you off” letters that 60% of their users file share… caused them to backpeddle a tad…

    No ISP can afford to alienate and blacklist fee-paying users. Users can and will go to ISPs not covered by the incestuous treaty and those will flourish while the nazi collaborators will die in their empty money vaults. And I for one shall say bravo!

  21. I left England thinking it was doing all right for the most part. Two years later, I’m frightened by some of the paths it has gone down. Perhaps I see things better from the outside.

    Labour has been in power for far too long, and gotten far too comfortable. They weren’t just content to fix things that needed fixing; now they have to tell people how to live their lives and interfere with the basic freedoms that people take for granted.

    I’m starting to think they need a constitution. For all that Bush has tried to ignore ours and bend its rules, I shudder to think what he might have done if it hadn’t been in his way.

  22. I find it pretty reassuring that almost all the comments on the Times website are opposed to this stupid idea – this from the readership of a right-wing Murdoch-owned shadow-of-its-former-self paper. Tonight this story was headlined on BBC Radio 4 news – paragon of serious news – as “plans to clamp down on filesharers have met with a skeptical reaction”. I think it’s clear that the majority of public opinion – at least of the online public – couldn’t care less about the future of the record companies. They’ve always been fighting a losing battle against the “major labels=The Man” meme propogated by punk/indie culture (and not a few major label acts). Now that there is a more efficient alternative distribution system, the record companies are in an adapt or die situation and this sort of thing looks more like the thrashing of a dying behemoth than the actions of an industry adapting to the new reality.

  23. I don’t think you can put the genie of connected people back into the bottle. If they’d make the internet all about corporations and state, people would revive the sneakernet big time. There’s no stopping the revolution, I think.

  24. @24 Seconded

    I’m intrigued too, Cory. What do you see in the place? One of the main reasons for me emigrating from the UK was this sort of authoritarian crap. That and the fact that the place is seriously overcrowded, bad mannered and expensive…

  25. #10 – Takuan:
    Those were the days weren’t they? Now unless you really get the attention of someone like the cDc/Hacktivismo or piss off the 4chan(7chan, ebaumsworld, etc)kids it’s not gonna happen. I think I would trade my squeaky clean internet record for a good ole’ ‘circle the wagons’ call. I wonder what really happened? I mean obviously a lot of the older ones received offers they could not refuse (jail time, work for us OR jail time), and some just simply bowed to the bigger $. What of the others? Are they still there, much more careful than in the old days, working silently from the shadows? If someone were to know the right key phrase to post on the right encrypted onion board somewhere, would the masses ever know? (If a tree falls in the forest…) These are the questions that should plague us on this particular issue.

  26. hm. what if we to try to have a worldwide 24-hour period of internet and cell-phone silence? no online activity at all? just to give those guys who are in fact making a fcku-load of cash off of us a real sense of what ‘a chilling effect’ actually means.

  27. Oh. Oh! An idea!

    As the copy companies are telling what messages can be sent by the communication companies, you too can Get Rich Quickly and Easily by following this plan:

    1. Start a copy company.
    2. Buy an ad on a popular site.
    3. Make the ad have an image you have monopoly on.
    4. State that the viewer is not allowed to download the image.
    5. Now everyone who sees this ad is infringing on your monopoly and can be accused of it.
    6. Tell the ISPs to send each of those people a “strike one”-letter.
    7. Send each of those people a “Buy an annual license to our collected works for the measly sum of £1000. A cheap price for the privilege of continued internet access.”
    8. Add everyone who pays to your “confessed infringer”-list. Cut the internet to those who didn’t and add them to your “convicted infringer”-list.
    9. Sell lists to other copy companies and to law enforcement agencies (hey, they gotta get the names for those no-fly-lists somewhere.)
    10. Retire to a country with no extradition treaty.

  28. I was thinking about traffic shaping yesterday, it is a shambles. They are basically saying that regardless if you are subscribed on the highest package, they still will give you limits on your “unlimited” broadband. It’s almost a bit like going, you have sky tv, but you are only allowed to watch tv 2 hours a day and if you watch more then you will only get to view programmes at half the screen size.
    You simply have no choice, you can’t pay extra to have normal internet with none of this shaping.

  29. You can; Be, Entanet and a few others don’t traffic-shape. Neither do they trap you in 12-month or more ‘contracts’ so you can’t leave when you find out how ghastly they are. Instead, they provide you what you paid for as an incentive to keep your business. Strange concept I know.

  30. since the price of electricity went up 20% overnight here in the UK, the internet isn’t going to matter for much longer anyway, since we won’t be able to power access to it.

  31. Has anyone taken a moment to point out to the people behind this move that there are a ton of perfectly legitimate uses for torrents? How will they tell the bad packets from the good ones? Some sort of dowsing rod?

  32. How will they tell the bad packets from the good ones?

    What makes you think they’re going to bother?

    The whole point of this exercise is to get a system in place that eliminates this “problem”: by avoiding legislation and courts, they don’t have to prove their case. The new rules of play are that if a large corporation accuses you of sharing, then you get a warning, and if they continue to accuse you, then you get disconnected.

    We’ve seen from their antics in the US that they don’t actually have a way to tell which packets are bad. Presumably they will continue to use the same approach here.

    The reason they’ve been getting away with it so far is that the vast majority of the internet-using population thinks sharing is a good idea and does it all the time, so if you accuse people at random then most of them will be sharers.

  33. Maybe once the ISP/BPI/ABCDE set up the legal download services they’ll be able to go after the way BT did with phone phreaks in the past. Monitor you for a couple of months then send you a bill for the legit cost of what you downloaded. It’s far easier and cheaper to take someone to court for an unpaid bill than it is for copyright theft/unbilled phone calls.

  34. underground data markets will form where young people show up with thumb drives of bootlegs and interact face to face to exchange downloads. No body between to monitor and tax. Since these young people have only ever faced a monitor before they will cosplay mask to conceal their identities and avoid the meatworld social contact so alien to their experience. Certain members that are more mobile by money or circumstance will be the carriers of new data between physically separated groups. It’ll be the old dope network/party model -only geeky.

  35. Has anyone taken a moment to point out to the people behind this move that there are a ton of perfectly legitimate uses for torrents? How will they tell the bad packets from the good ones? Some sort of dowsing rod?

    As I understand it, there’s no packet involvement. The BPI’s minions will simply go to the Pirate Bay and share all the albums there, collect the IPs of people on the agreed ISPs who are sharing and then pass them to the ISPs to send the letters.

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