Last night’s Panorama looked at the issue of unlawful filesharing and the proposals within the Digital Economy Bill that the UK Government thinks will deal with it.
The Open Rights Group has criticised the programme for spending too long examing the differences of opinion among music makers, and too little time talking about rights — perhaps that’s an inevitable side effect for fronting the programme with Jo Whiley, a Radio One DJ. This probably increased the audience amongst the under-30s who do a great deal of the file sharing; and for whom this may be the first time that they’ve had the bill’s proposals explained to them. So lose some, win some!
The programme had a number of stunts : they slowed down the broadband of a student household (not only was their MP3 going to take 13 weeks to download, they found they couldn’t effectively look at their email). They got a digital forensics expert to look at a family’s computers, finding copies of LimeWire (tricky stuff forensics!) and portraying this as a smoking gun for unlawfulness. The same expert camped outside the student house and piggybacked on their WiFi (apparently by employing a default password on their broadband router to authorise themselves to have access).
You can also see yours truly:
demonstrating an anonymity network (it was in fact Tor, but I’d done a little tweaking to ensure that its standard discouragement of file sharing activity didn’t have any impact) : and showing that a Bit Torrent tracker stopped recording me as being in Cambridge, but placed me at the Tor exit node in Germany instead.
I argued that as soon as large numbers of people were getting in trouble for file sharing because they were traceable — then they wouldn’t stop file sharing, but they would stop being traceable.
All in all, within the limitations of a 30-minute prime-time main-channel show, I think the Panorama team provided a good introduction to a complex topic. You can judge for yourself (from within the UK) for the next 7 days on the BBC iPlayer, or in three parts on YouTube (I’m two minutes into part 3, at least until a web blocking injunction bars your access to what might well be an infringement of copyright).