I have just bought a DVD box set, which is loaded with dire threats against video piracy and copyright notices you can't skip past. The effect is very irritating and conveys the very strong impression that the DVD publisher regards me as a criminal. It is also characteristic of the industry approach to piracy, which is to threaten and then victimise their own customers. What is surprising is that they think this will actually work. Don't get me wrong, information piracy is deeply wrong and no-one should engage in it, but if you actually want to prevent it then assuming all of your customers are evil is clearly not the way to go. It doesn't work because it weakens the moral position against piracy and it doesn't work because it is far behind the pirates in technology terms. Continuing with the theme of attacking their own customers, according to the Sunday Times industry figure David Geffen has told Lord Mandelson that Internet Service Providers need powers to identify video pirates and then cut off their internet access. The plan is to to criminalise the six million or so British citizens who make illegal downloads, which is at least consistent with an industry that hates its own customers. So, the moral distinction between the pirates and an industry that seems to regard Orwell's 1984 as a guidebook becomes further blurred and, worse still, it wouldn't even work. I am not going to discuss the technical issues here, suffice to say the trend of the mass entertainment industry running five years behind internet technology continues.
New Labour has a dismal track record when it comes to civil liberties and workable IT solutions, so I think that Geffen's urgings will probably fall on fertile ground. Hopefully, the Conservatives will demand a rather higher standard of policy.