My Times editorial on British plan to cut relatives of accused infringers off from the net

I have an op-ed in today's Times about the British plan to disconnect people from the internet if someone in their home is accused -- without proof -- of infringing copyright, and how utterly unjust this is.
Even more radical is the Mandelson proposal to disconnect entire families from the internet if a single member -- or a neighbour who uses their internet connection -- is accused, without proof, of violating copyright. Leave aside the fundamental injustice of collective punishment, a practice so abhorrent that it is outlawed in the Geneva Convention; think instead of the utter disproportionality of this.

The internet is an integral part of our children's education; it's critical to our employment; it's how we stay in touch with distant relatives. It's how we engage with government. It's the single wire that delivers freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. It isn't just a conduit for getting a few naughty free movies, it is the circulatory system of the information age.

Denying physics won't save the video stars


  1. here’s what i don’t get. i don’t get how ANYONE can ban anyone from the internet. surely it doesn’t ‘belong’ to the government?! how is it possible to ban someone from a place you don’t own? who owns the internet?

  2. Well done, Mr. Doctorow sir.

    Work like this is what drew me to your page here in the first place, and then this drew me to your books, and that drew me to coming back here again, and again, and again….

    You’ve cost the American software consumer untold extra expense as I turn here instead of to my job, but it’s worth it. Your essays inspire me and many others and I thank you for them.

    Please keep on writing the good write.

  3. I feel that the punishment doesn’t go far enough. They should look at suspending entire town, villages, or areas of cities. If the illegal behavior still occurs, then perhaps the entire nation? This is why we can’t have nice things.

  4. This, from your editorial, is my new e-mail sig:

    “It is not the job of government to guarantee that the business model enabled by last year’s technology will go on for ever. If it were, we would have outlawed radio to save vaudeville.” — Cory Doctorow

    Hope you don’t mind the copylifting!

  5. Even better if the neighbors are using your un-encrypted wireless to illegally download copyrighted content. Not that that would ever happen- right (sarcasm)…

  6. Yesterday when reading about the birth of ARPANET, I noted mention of Finland’s new law enshrining broadband access as a CIVIL RIGHT, and was awfully impressed. Would that other countries felt the same way.

  7. Well said, as always. Thank you for your continued efforts to keep the world free from corporate rule! Those guys are a bad trip.

  8. I think the worst part is not the collective punishment or the nature of the punishment, the worst part is that the United Kingdom is openly abandoning the rule of law!

  9. Cory, isn’t it also true that this law will only ever be of use against the casual infringers and the innocent? Anyone who knows what they’re doing will surely be able to hide their downloading activities. Don’t know if I’m right about this – but wouldn’t using services such as Tor, or maybe even just OPenDNS, mean that the ISP would not be able to track the downloading activities?
    If there is a way to prevent the tracking and download anonymously, the Internet will be full of useful help pages once the law comes into force (if it isn’t already – I haven’t checked this, but I’m sure I could find the information if I spent five minutes with Google).

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