UK anti-piracy costs outweigh losses

A British Internet service provider has warned of astronomical costs to fight media piracy, to the point that the piracy itself is less costly.

Speaking with The Mirror, BT’s consumer division head,  John Petter, said government plans to force piracy monitoring on ISPs could cost £1 million a day. That’s £365 million per year, compared to music industry claims that piracy accounts for £200 million per year in lost revenue.

Granted, the policing efforts that may be thrust upon ISPs would also cover software and movie downloads. That’d theoretically bring the overall piracy savings up, but only assuming that the BSI’s claim of £200 million lost is accurate. And we all know that the industry tends to inflate its figures, assuming that every illegal download is a lost sale.

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The government’s plans were revealed late last month in an amendment to its Digital Britain report. It recommended the termination of Internet service for repeat illegal downloaders, relying on ISPs to do the legwork of finding and punishing offenders. The report suggests that rights holders and ISPs split the cost of hunting down pirates.

BT’s not the only ISP opposed to the plan. TalkTalk and Orange UK joined with BT to publish an open letter to the government, calling the proposed anti-piracy measures a “‘kangaroo court’ process where evidence is not properly tested and accused broadband users are denied the right to defend themselves against false accusations.”

It’s tempting to laugh at the government and Big Content for pursuing such a foolish endeavor, but the tragedy is that these piracy costs could be passed on to Internet subscribers, regardless of whether they’re engaged in illegal downloads. BT says broadband bills could increase by £24 per year to pay for enforcement.

Petter alleges that the entertainment industry wants to pass enforcement onto ISPs in order to avoid lawsuits that tarnish the industry’s public image. But if all consumers are forced to pay for the actions of illegal downloaders, Big Content will only come out looking worse than ever.