IMHO: The problems with the latest file-sharing crackdown

Last month, the government published its Digital Britain report, which recommended - among many other things - that the best way to keep file-sharing

Last month, the government published its Digital Britain report, which recommended - among many other things - that the best way to keep file-sharing in check was to give more powers to the communications watchdog Ofcom, and ISPs, to release the identities of file-sharers to the music industry.

The idea was that the worst offenders would be warned and - if they didn't stop - could have their internet throttled (ie slowed). And extreme circumstances, file-sharers could be sued.

Turns out that these proposals weren't strong enough for the Business Secretary Lord Mandleson, who is believed to have personally intervened to toughen up measures. The likely result: serial file-sharers could see their broadband terminated completely. 

In this age of Spotify and Last.fm, there's little excuse for illegally downloading copyright material. But access to information on the internet has become such an important part of our daily life that denying us the access could be seen as an infringement of our human rights - that's certainly what the French supreme court decided when they struck down a similar measure in France. 

After all, there tends to be one broadband connection per household - which means one person could seriously damage a whole family's access to information. Need to research something for your homework? Sorry, your mum downloaded a few too many Metallica classics.

And that's not the only problem with the proposals. When you're browsing the web through Wi-Fi, it's the router that can be recognised by its IP address, not your computer. Which means you could be liable for the actions of any random stranger who joins your network. And don't think a password is going to protect you - just Google 'Wi-Fi crack' if you don't believe me.

What's more, by no means all file-sharing is illegal. Plenty of peer-to-peer services (like Sky Player and Spotify) are totally legit. And even dubious networks and torrents are still used to legally distribute software, music and movies. Which means ISPs are won't be able to just monitor amounts of traffic - they'll also have to open up each packet of data to find out what's inside. That's some jigsaw puzzle.

Finally, there's the fact that around 7million people are believed to have illegally downloaded music in the UK. According to the Office of National Statistics, there are 16.5m broadband-connected households in the Great Britain and Ireland. Which means that, at its most extreme, the ammended Digital Britain report - with its stated aim of encouraging the uptake of broadband - could be suggesting that we unplug 40% of all our broadband connections. And that's plain dumb. 

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