UK web surfers have caught a grim glimpse of the future with Internet users being threatened with 10 years in jail for “illegal downloading” after a prominent music file-sharing site was shut down shortly after Britain signed the notorious ACTA bill.
It is the first time such a move has been made against Internet users in the UK. The British government introduced regulations in 2009 enabling Internet providers to track users who downloaded illegal content from the web and disable their connection if warning letters had no effect. But signing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has brought the conflict to a whole new level.
In Europe, people are taking to the streets in protest at the contradictory Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, with some countries refusing to sign it.
After hackers from the activist group Anonymous attacked practically all US government websites in retaliation, the authorities are now considering adopting their own home-grown anti-counterfeiting laws like PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) / SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act).
In February, Britain's organized crime police shut down RnBxclusive.com, a prominent music file-sharing website with about 250,000 subscribers on Facebook alone and up to 70,000 visitors per day.
In fact, the British police effectively took on the role of personal enforcer to the recording industry, standing guard to protect corporate profits. However sad it might be for many, this is a part of a legal game between copyright owners and the police on the one hand, and defenders of the free Internet on the other.
Normally, the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) tackles crimes “that affect the UK and its citizens.” Now, it seems that downloading content from a file-sharing website has been put on a par with “Class A drugs, people smuggling and human trafficking, major gun crime, fraud and money laundering.”
The practices of SOCA, while enforcing its crackdown on “illegal downloading,” raises even more questions.