The Law and the Internet. The Arguments For Legal Restriction and Interference.

Having made my initial thoughts clear and present it is only fair to now expand upon both sides of the argument to see what both sides, the government and the public, actually want to happen.

Let’s start with the Government. The Government set up GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) around World War II. The current ‘Who We Are’ page for GCHQ says the following “GCHQ is an intelligence and security organisation, working to keep Britain safe and secure in the challenging environment of modern communications.

Our heritage can be traced from the tremendous achievements in signals intelligence at Bletchley Park in World War II. We and our forerunner organisations served our country during both World Wars and then the Cold War. Today, we address a range of modern demands, dealing with threats from terrorism, the spread of nuclear weapons and the resolution of regional conflicts around the world, as well as protecting the economic prosperity of the UK.

GCHQ is firmly part of the British Government – I attend the weekly National Security Council chaired by the Prime Minister. We work closely with colleagues from other government departments, UK armed forces serving abroad, and with our partners in the intelligence community, MI5 and Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).

We work to the Foreign Secretary and are subject to scrutiny from Parliament, two senior judges and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal on the legality, necessity and proportionality of our work. We are proud of being an organisation of high ethical standards and culture, embedded in the framework of British law.

We are a secret organisation. We cannot publish all that we do – it would compromise our operations and our capabilities.”[1] Now this seems to be give them a lot of protection and room for kind of doing what they want however this room needs to be afforded to some. Now accountability is crucial to everything, no one can be seen to have unlimited power and the GCHQ are accountable to the Prime Minister who is accountable to the electorate so GCHQ are not uncontrollable, they just have a lot of freedom to do what needs doing to get the Job done but this still leaves the question of our right to privacy and our freedoms.

In response to the questions asked about people’s rights and freedoms it is clear that without the power to snoop and look in to parts of a person’s private life the GCHQ and police would not be able to determine threats to the country and stop them from happening rather than hunting down culprits after disasters have happened. This power will help the country many times a day, not only will it help the country physically, for example identifying possible terror suspects or threats to lives, the power also allows GCHQ to determine cyber criminals, those that would attack people via their own computers and destroy their personal lives by fraud or blackmail. The country had a special cyber deterrent force for the 2012 Olympic Games because of the cyber traffic it draws from all over the world. GCHQ does not spy on everyone, random traffic is selected and a selection of sights that are believed to be connect to wrong doing are watched but that does not mean that GCHQ are constantly watching your every move. The invasion of privacy line can only be crossed under reasonable grounds of suspicion, they can’t just watch your every move because they want to.

GCHQ are just one topic of argument over how people believe the government are trying to restrict and interfere with people’s use of the internet. A second is that regarding the Digital Economy Act 2010. This Act was concerned with the copyright infringement of digital media via piracy sharing sites. Along with this Act coming in to force the Prime Minister, at the time David Cameron, got ISPs (internet service providers) to block a list of websites that had been connected to illegal file sharing of copyrighted material such as movies and music. It is worth noting that the section of the act, section 15, that allowed ISPs to block internet sites was repealed by judicial review but on the notion that ‘copyright holders already had the ability to use Section 97 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act to take court action against websites.'[2] This list has grown overtime and will no doubt continue to grow but its effect has been minuscule.

The ninth annual global software piracy study found that ‘42%'[3] of people use pirated software. That equates to ‘$63 Billion'[4]. Add in music, movies, e-books, TV shows and you will have over 50% of the world involved in pirated activity. Ubisoft announced in 2011 that they had a ’93-95%'[5] piracy rate on PC. Now as much some would argue the price of games nowadays is astronomical, especially in these economic times, companies do deserve to get paid for their work and that just shouldn’t be allowed to stand. This is where the Digital economy Act and various other Act I have mentioned come in to play, but do they? Blocking an internet site will deter the low level, low skill pirate but those that are accustomed to the seas that are the internet will be able to manoeuvre around the seemingly impenetrable sea storm with a simple proxie randomiser or proxie reverser. These will allow PCs using the ISPs that are blocking restricted websites to gain access very easily, imagine butting a disguise on your presence on the internet, you just walk straight past the guards. There are many websites that offer this service for free, making it look like you are from Spain, or China, or Japan, somewhere the ISPs over here have no jurisdiction and cannot block sites. These free and available tools mean that all the work the government has done is for nothing. These tools and many more that I am probably not aware of are what is still allowing pirates to steal the works of others for free.

Simply saying the action is wrong is not enough in the online world. These pirates have been working away and creating their backstreet’s if you will for many years. The government is the new kid on the block in this case and needs to catch up. Piracy will not stop because the government has prevented it, piracy will stop when no one wants to steal anymore and that’s the sad thing, I think the law has to focus on not preventing it full stop but making it very hard to do so. Limiting the ability to pirate to only those that have a really high understanding of how to do so would be an easier more manageable goal, global piracy may be at 10% but that is better than 50% or more! Business will accept some people will never pay but by passing laws to make the option of pirating so remote, either financially or physically  or by other means you are not stopping it but removing it as a viable option to many who currently do, limiting it to a very small skilled number of people.

If people were not paid for their days work then they would be unhappy so why do they see piracy as an acceptable action? By participating in piracy you are stealing money from people’s pay packets and cost people their jobs. This isn’t right and the law should do all it can to enforce that people are paid for the fruits of their labours, it is morally and legally right. Some would argue that removing the ability to visit websites of your choice that are known to help and promote pirate activity is a restriction of liberty. Is this also the case for websites that promote extremist views and encourage people to commit acts of terror, for example the 7/7 bus bombings. Removing and restricting these extremist websites was not met with any opposition but removing websites that help with stealing copyrighted material was met with fierce opposition.

The reason for restricting access to these websites is a clear and just one, it is making sure that people that work on games, music, TV shows and other forms of digital works are paid for their work. As for GCHQ spying on your activity, that is an invasion of privacy, but at the same time they can’t do it just because they want to, they need grounds for suspicion so if you have nothing to hide you won’t be investigated.

 

[1] http://www.gchq.gov.uk/who_we_are/Pages/Welcome-to-GCHQ.aspx
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Economy_Act_2010#Blocking_Internet_lo        cations
[3] http://globalstudy.bsa.org/2011/
[4] http://globalstudy.bsa.org/2011/
[5]http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-08-22-ubisoft-has-endured-a-93-            95-percent-piracy-rate-on-pc