Panorama looks at unlawful filesharing

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:
Richard Clayton on Panorama
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).

7 thoughts on “Panorama looks at unlawful filesharing

  1. @andy lol

    their wifi expert were idiots too rolf that guy had no idea at all. (not you guys of course)

    i still don’t understand all the ossification the bbc has on such topics.

    more importantly where were the ppuk.

    overall the program was heavily biased with the usually reports who don’t have a bloody clue. mind you the bbc still haven’t apolgised to Alan Elise for slanderous lies.

    do screen shots count as evidence no web logs web history or cached torrent files ?

    (apparently by employing a default password on their broadband router to authorise themselves to have access).

    i am dubious about this too i bet the guy did nothing i mean he’s using windows after all.

    cool hair btw zztop style (well all you need is a bigger beard)

    were all the media they download audio media seemed a bit big most were in their GiB.

  2. Thank you for including the Youtube links. I hope that the BBC will open their playback for 3rd-party applications again and also for access from other countries like where I am. (Just over the channel, actually.)

  3. I thought the programme blurred the distinction between illegal file-sharing and illegal downloading.

    It also seemed to me to leave open the question of why not block out the sites from which you can illegalyl download rather than going after individual punters – a bit like trying to control drugs by concentrating on the users.

    And when they had that Stephen Timms who made such a hash 0f anti-spam measures a few years ago we knew we were in for a total cockup.

  4. @John

    It also seemed to me to leave open the question of why not block out the sites from which you can illegally download

    The actual downloading (in peer-to-peer systems) is done from peers, ie from a random set of millions of other end-users. Blocking these is not practicable.

    If you mean, why not block the rendezvous points (the trackers, or the indexing sites such as The Pirate Bay). This doesn’t work because they’ll move around faster than you can block them; or protocols that don’t have single-points-of-failure will come (back) into the mainstream, and once again blocking will be too difficult to contemplate.

  5. Thanks for the clarification but I don’t quite understand how anyone can detect file sharing as such. How does any ISP detect I’ve downloaded a music file from you as opposed to your holiday snaps of Tierra del Fuego? Especially when in addition to encrypting it with my PGP key I’ve downloaded it from your FTP directory for which I had to quote the right password?

    Please note I use Linux all the time maybe MS stuff is all different.

  6. @John

    I don’t quite understand how anyone can detect file sharing as such

    The concern is specifically about peer-to-peer file sharing, with very large numbers of participants (BIt Torrent, Gnutella &c). Point-to-point transfers (called “cyber lockers” in the current jargon of the policy wonks) are seen as a longer term threat — though they seem to be imagined to be fixed locations when counter-measures are discussed, which is unrealistic.

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