Response from Ben Wallace

You’ll remember that I wrote to my MP, Ben Wallace, a couple of days ago about the Digital Economy Bill. He responded by email today. I’ve not really analysed the message yet; I’ll do that tomorrow. For now, here’s the full text of the response:

Dear Mr Binns,

Thank you for contacting me about the Government’s plans to crackdown on illegal filesharing as set out in the November 2009 Queen Speech.

This is an extremely serious issue that costs the creative industries hundreds of millions of pounds each year. It also puts consumers at risk, as those who download illegal material increase the likelihood of their machines being attacked by computer viruses, and are exposed to unverified advertising and inappropriate material. Regrettably, the Government has neglected this crucial area until now and legislation is urgently needed.

As part of the Digital Economy Bill, the Government has finally set out measures to tackle digital piracy. Under the proposed legislation, in the first year of operation persistent illegal filesharers could be issued two warning letters in an attempt to reform their behaviour. If illegal filesharing has not dropped by 70 per cent within this period, then further measures to cut off the most serious offenders’ internet connections could also be introduced.

I support measures to tackle internet piracy. However, I share your concerns about the practical implications of the Government’s announcements. These proposals fail to answer some critical questions; for example, what criteria will the Secretary of State use before deciding to cut someone off? They also fail to suggest incentives for technical solutions that prevent or deter people from illegal file-sharing in the first place.

Whilst my party are happy to consider the use of technical measures against the most extreme offenders, we believe this should be a last resort. Conservatives advocate the use of more educational programmes in schools and amongst the general public to educate people on the wrongs of illegal downloading.

Please be assured that my colleague Jeremy Hunt MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, will be following the progress of the Bill closely and Conservatives will continue to press the Government for more details of their plans, and to promote a more educational based solution.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Kind regards,