The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) wants to ratchet up the fight against illegal file-sharing, even comparing it to child pornography to stress the need for action.
I've mentioned before how the UK govt wants ISPs to crack down on illegal file-sharing, but now it seems that the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) wants it do even more - ban offenders from using the internet altogether.
It seems that FAST has grown weary of the cumbersome legal process in which it must actually "... go through the courts and get a court order against the ISPs to give information on people performing illegal activities." Calling the process "long-winded, archaic, and very expensive," it wants to work more closely with ISPs and develop a "...simpler methodology to track down people using the networks for illegal activity and either bargain or give details to agencies and stop them from doing it."
In other words, it wants to be able to monitor and filter ISP networks to make sure that nobody is sharing its content without its permission. Instead of "censorship" it's calling it a "collaboration," but if somebody's always monitoring and hassling your customers without any benefit to your company is it really a collaboration?
FAST's idea of collaboration is to even go so far as to be able to demonstrate that if "...Joe Soap is using your network for illegal activity, (that) we would ask you to ban him from using your internet connections." So ISPs get to lose a customer for life and FAST gets to sell a few more copies of the latest video game title? Yeah, it's a "collaboration" alright.
To make matters worse, FAST wants to be able to follow those accused of illegal file-sharing around. "If there's evidence of that person then joining another ISP and then taking up again, we would go to that ISP and say: "Here's the evidence and we don't think they should be allowed to use your network" said a spokesman for the group. The prospect of effectively banning people from the internet is ridiculous and completely unfeasible and also hints at a troubling new tactic by copyright holders to fight piracy at the ISP level.
FAST even tries to make the old child pornography tie-in, saying that "If it were child pornography, there would be no question at all about that person being barred." So now a bootleg copy of Sim City is the same thing as a nude, underage child? I think not.
Luckily I think the prospects for such a initiative are pretty bleak for it raises a whole number of questions about civil liberties, not to mention why ISPs would want to lose customers without any benefit in return. Nonetheless, it's important that people in the UK are aware of what FAST wants to accomplish and stay vigilant against such efforts. With the UK govt already trying to get ISPs take a "more activist role" in the problem of illegal file-sharing, the banning of those convicted of the crime may not be as far off as one thinks.