In case you weren’t aware, BT is now blocking access to Newzbin. That isnt stopping the MPA though, as they are now looking to get Newzbin blocked from other major ISPs including TalkTalk and VirginMedia.
Let me start by saying I am against blocking content on the internet. Sure there are things that I don’t think should be on the internet, but the burden of responsibility should lay with the company hosting that data and not the company owning the pipes to your house. BT is merely providing a service moving data around, in the same way as they provide a service connecting phone lines together. To make BT responsible for the data would be like making them responsible for every crime committed that was enabled using the BT phone network.
But my annoyance is not due to the blocking, but instead the method of blocking. BT is using its own CleanFeed software to stop any access to Newzbin. CleanFeed was developed by BT in 2003 in an attempt to block illegal material as identified by the Internet Watch Foundation, specifically related to child pornography. Due to the success of this software, all ISPs were required to implement a similar system by the end of 2007. I think we can all agree that this is a noble endeavour to protect the vulnerable.
But the MPA is not vulnerable. The MPA contains some of the biggest movie companies in the world; including Walt Disney Motion Pictures, Paramount, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers. This group represents a lot of money, and a lot of legal weight. An example of this is Walt Disney Group successfully lobbying for the Copyright Term Extension Act just to protect its Mickey Mouse copyright.
Add into the mix that Newzbin does not host any material, but instead allows people to search for POTENTIALLY infringing material. There are two points here; Newzbin is a search engine, and not all searchable material is protected by copyright (and in some cases is freely distributed). I can Google any number of illegal things, from how to broadcast without a license, to how to construct a nail bomb, and yet Google (acting in the same manner as Newzbin) is free from persecution. Secondly, I could use Newzbin to search and download an obscure Linux distribution, or Jonathon Coulton’s latest album. Again, neither of these would be breaking the law, and yet CleanFeed makes no distinction.
The problem is that the people in power generally do not have an understanding of how technology works. They rely on the advice of “experts” whose advice can be bought by the likes of the MPA. And if the advice is not actually sought, then the MPA can lobby politicians. These laws are not properly thought through, or get abused by people in power. Another example of this is a recent case where a man was taking a picture of his child using his phone. This innocent action took place inside a shopping centre, and the man was told by a security guard that photographs were not permitted, and to delete the picture. The man explained he had already posted the pictures on Facebook, and for some reason the Police were called. Apparently, one officer claimed that he could confiscate the phone under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Clearly, the Prevention of Terrorism Act was not devised to stop people taking pictures of their own children, and yet that is how it is being used.
But as I try and drag my train of thought back towards BT, CleanFeed and Newzbin, I am reminded that Newzbin have developed a system of their own. This enables users to circumvent CleanFeed and render it useless. I can’t help but think that CleanFeed’s misuse as a tool to protect MPA’s interests has actually made child pornography more accessible.