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Lord Lucas Says Record Companies "Blackmail" Users 236

Posted by timothy
from the lord-timothy-yields-his-time dept.
Kijori writes "Lord Lucas, a member of the UK House of Lords, has accused record companies of blackmailing internet users by accusing people of copyright infringement who have no way to defend themselves. 'You can get away with asking for £500 or £1,000 and be paid on most occasions without any effort having to be made to really establish guilt. It is straightforward legal blackmail.' The issue is that there is no way for people to prove their innocence, since the record company's data is held to be conclusive proof, and home networking equipment does not log who is downloading what. Hopefully, at the very least, the fact that parliament has realised this fact will mean that copyright laws will get a little more sane."
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Lord Lucas Says Record Companies "Blackmail" Users

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  • by mykos (1627575) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:04AM (#31032040)

    This is the best thing I've read all week. If I went to someone and said "You have wronged me so pay me money or I'll report you to the cops", I could be reported and sent to jail. Maybe if I had a lawyer write my threat up, my demand would magically be non-extortionate.

    • by icebike (68054) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:49AM (#31032186)

      But will anything really happen or will this just be another excuse for yet more surveillance of home computer usage?

      The track record of the House of Lords hasn't been so good over the long run has it?

      I would bet that if Lucas gains any traction great pressure will be brought to shut him up one way or another.

      • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday February 05, 2010 @04:42AM (#31032416) Journal

        Lords like Lucas are very difficult to pressure or to get them to shut up. As a whole, the lords are a bit of a nuisance because they tend to get in everybodies way. If you are on the left, they go against a ban on fox hunting and if you are on the right they keep insisting on this bloody liberty thing. That is where they get this bad rep from, because politicians don't like to be questioned. As citizens, we shouldn't take politicians word for it that the lords are all bad.

        • by Spad (470073) <slashdot.spad@co@uk> on Friday February 05, 2010 @05:44AM (#31032688) Homepage

          And it's why the government have been trying to get rid of unelected members of the House of Lords for most of the past 10 years; something that I suspect the next government will continue to do.

          • by williamhb (758070)

            And it's why the government have been trying to get rid of unelected members of the House of Lords for most of the past 10 years; something that I suspect the next government will continue to do.

            Not quite correct. They have done a great deal to get rid of the hereditary peers, but most of the members of the House of Lords are appointed by the Government and Opposition themselves -- but still not elected. Some government MPs have proposed electing some of the Lords, but it has never looked likely to succeed.

            Actually, even in the House of Commons (parliament) there is less appetite than you would think for an elected House of Lords -- if the Lords were also elected, then the justification for the P

      • by Kijori (897770) <ward.jakeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 05, 2010 @05:40AM (#31032672)

        But will anything really happen or will this just be another excuse for yet more surveillance of home computer usage?

        The track record of the House of Lords hasn't been so good over the long run has it?

        I would bet that if Lucas gains any traction great pressure will be brought to shut him up one way or another.

        Unfortunately it's heading in the other direction. The statement was made in the context of a debate on the Digital Economy Bill [digitalwrong.org], which is designed to make it easier to punish "copyright violators" (although, as numerous Lords have pointed out, they're actually just people accused of copyright violation), by making it easier to get information from ISPs and allowing copyright holders to have a user's internet connection shut off if they refuse to stop downloading (i.e. if the record company still has "evidence" after they have written to the user and threatened them). All in all, an absolutely disastrous bill.

        *Shameless plug* If you agree and want to try to get answers from Mandelson, sign the DigitalWrong letter [digitalwrong.org]. This is going to be printed up on huge bits of card with all the messages people have left and presented to Lord Mandelson, since he doesn't bother replying to individual letters.

      • by smpoole7 (1467717)

        But will anything really happen or will this just be another excuse for yet more surveillance of home computer usage?

        Good question. Do we really need Yet Still Another Government Oversight, or draconian set of laws?

        The real answer is "Loser Pay," whether in the UK, the US or elsewhere. We might word it something like, "the party prevailing shall be entitled to reasonable reimbursement of expenses incurred in obtaining relief." (And "reasonable" could be defined starting with, "the going rate in your area for quality legal representation.")

        The problem in the US, of course, is that the Bar associations are (inexplicably, IMNHO) opposed to this.

        (I say "inexplicably" because their favorite argument, that it would hurt poor clients, is specious; if anything, if the client had a decent case, the lawyers could help them even with small, currently "unprofitable" cases under the current system, while still receiving fair compensation. They could change their image overnight from sharks to champions, because they COULD afford to take the case of the little old lady whose landlord refuses to fix the heater.)

        The Supreme Court ruled against reimbursement some years ago in a landmark healthcare case, as I recall ... and there was a story posted here just the other day about an RIAA case being dismissed, but WITHOUT the defendant being able to recover expenses. That's just wrong.

        Loser Pay would be the answer. We just need to educate everyone, whether liberal/progressive or conservative/traditionalist, about just why this would work.

    • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:53AM (#31032986) Homepage

      No, you actually couldn't, not if the claim isn't obviously frivolous.

      "You owe me money, pay up, or I'll be forced to take the matter to court", is even, in principle, entirely reasonable in some situations.

      The problem is that the punishments are so out of line with the severity of the transgression, that people cannot afford to let the courts sort it out, even in cases where they're quite possibly innocent.

      If I say the above, and demand $700 from you for NOT taking it to court, and you know that being taken to court means potentially a year-long battle and hundreds of thousands if you loose, can you afford to take that gamble, even if you think you're most-probably going to come out innocent ?

      Or do you buckle ?

      That's the point where it becomes blackmail.

      If the punishment for uploading copyrighted material was limited to something sane, this problem would go away.

      Say if you downloaded 300 songs from piratebay, and have a share-ratio of 2, and they calculated this means 600 people illegally got a song from you, at $0.99 a song, that's a loss of $600 -- so they convict you guilty and demand you pay $1000.

      That's not what happens though, you potentially end up paying orders of magnitude more. And that's wrong.

      • by DarthVain (724186)

        Couldn't agree more.

        All they are doing is taking advantage of an insane law and then lobbying to keep it that way. Repeat.

        If the damages were not so out of wack with reality this extortion scheme wouldn't work as most people would just be, "fine, see you in court jackholes!"

        However when facing a decision that for all intents and purposes could ruin you financially, you would be hard pressed to justify defending yourself, and most will just pay off the goons to be left alone.

    • by julesh (229690)

      If I went to someone and said "You have wronged me so pay me money or I'll report you to the cops", I could be reported and sent to jail

      No you couldn't, at least not legally. This kind of threat is considered perfectly acceptable and is the basis of the "civil recovery" schemes that shops use against shoplifters: people caught stealing don't want the police involved, so will happily pay not just for what they stole but also a small amount extra, which is theoretically supposed to cover the costs of the civ

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Courageous (228506)

      Well. Your lawyer would write their demand a bit differently. :-P If you can find a lawyer to write the demand the same way, please have him send me the demand. Also make sure he owns real property, I could use some extra income. :-P

    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday February 05, 2010 @09:52AM (#31033880) Journal
      The wonderful thing is that they had to create a legal framework to make it possible, vote it, and let it happen to realize this kind of abuse was possible. What is the job they are supposed to do again ? I thought they were supposed to be literate and intelligent people, specialist of laws and how they could be used in a nasty way in order to design them intelligently.

      Day after day, I wonder if it would be a lot more damaging to choose MPs at random and let random people be incompetent instead of these elected buffoons. At least, the random people would be really representative of the population.
  • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:05AM (#31032042) Journal

    I find your lack of faith disturbing.

  • "Hopefully, at the very least, the fact that parliament has realised this fact will mean that copyright laws will get a little more sane"

    mod summary +1 funny

  • Always another way (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AHuxley (892839) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:11AM (#31032070) Homepage Journal
    Flood you local MP and legal watch dogs with "due diligence" claims.
    Make the ambulance chasing legal teams feel the heat of well written complaints to all MP's in the area.
    Write to the local press. get on radio, tv, youtube, name the lawyers.
    Protest outside their offices and public events demanding legal reform.
    Make a web page with the legal teams letters to attract many others.
    Make it out rank their own site in google searches.
    If they sue you, go to court.
    • You forgot the last two parts.

      ...
      Declare bankruptcy, get laughed out of court by well funded and backed solicitors / media companies, and live without any possibility of credit, mortgage, or a management position for the rest of your life.
    • by Xest (935314) on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:10AM (#31032814)

      "If they sue you, go to court."

      Problem with that one is anyone that has said they're willing to go to court over it has had the case dropped, and there's no recourse, or way to force them to put their money where their mouth is. They just rely on the people who are scared to death at the idea of the court costs and so just settle regardless of innocence or guilty because as Lucas says, the music industry's "evidence" is being treated as proof of guilt when it's anything but.

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Also think like a lawyer - the ambulance chasing kind.
        They need clients and standing in the community.
        Sit in his or her car park, follow their clients back to their house/office/ company.
        Using your letter, describe the 'quality' of legal representation they have hired to all the staff.
        If they like to be seen doing community work, tell the other people donating their time about your lawyers day job.
        Use the "evidence" letter - its yours :)
        Any modern art competitions? Scale it up and enter it - big tim
      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        You could take them to Small Claims Court to recover costs incurred by their hastily abandoned legal threats.

        Say you had to spend a few hours checking your PCs and wifi to make sure they really had made a mistake, and then write them numerous letters until they gave up. How much is your time worth? £100 per hour? Pretty cheap by legal standards. If you can show that you lost out financially (e.g. you could have spent that time earning money, but even letters, stamps, paper and ink all have value) you

        • by Xest (935314)

          You'd struggle to claim for your time unfortunately, it's not that easy.

          When I was with Demon internet and they dropped me to 128kbps for a month with no notice stating I'd crossed my monthly allowance which was never in my contract and which I'd never agreed to I took them to the small claims court. They didn't turn up to defend, however I was still only granted things that were provable- i.e. XBox live, Dark Age of Camelot were unusuable for the month, also I was allowed to recoup the cost of my subscript

    • by Kijori (897770)

      And, just to add a shameless plug in there, sign the DigitalWrong letter! [digitalwrong.org]. You write what you want to say to Mandelson they get it printed up on some big paper with everyone else's and go and try to give it to him. More effective than writing a letter and you don't even have to pay for a stamp.

  • by whovian (107062) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:14AM (#31032080)

    This wasn't the Lucas I was looking for.

    • when i heard "Lord Lucas" i thought "good gosh, george has done gone from genius in the '70s, to feeble hack in the 2000s, and now into outright dementia, confusing reality with his fantasy world, imagining himself senator palpatine himself, walking around in his bathrobe and hissing at ILM underlings and trying to vivisection visiting cartoon network executives with a torchiere lamp from the reception area"

  • by cbope (130292)

    What an amazing outbreak of common sense! It's about time at least some of the politicians start to acknowledge that the underhanded, shady, illegal and extremely prejudiced methods used by the media companies are a huge problem. If only the politicians in the US would get this, but somehow I doubt they will. They are too deep in the pockets of the media companies at this point to ever recover.

  • The sanity is finally spreading, which started from Australia. A few more of similar statements from Government officials, or even some cases appearing in media where customers were blackmailed like this, and users might not be bullied any more just because they use Internet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by delinear (991444)
      Unfortunately he's more likely to be the King Canute in this instance, the solitary voice trying to hold back the tide of government jumping on big media's bandwagon. The best we can hope for is that it reaches the ears of enough of the populace that it becomes a differentiating factor between the two big parties at election time, at least then we'll have a choice. Unfortunately the populace are largely too busy watching I'm a Celebrity Fat Pet on Ice to bother about the erosion of their rights. Bread and c
  • >Hopefully, at the very least, the fact that parliament has realised this fact will mean that copyright laws will get a little more sane."

    Sadly, history indicates it wont work like that. Instead, companies will strive to lock down personal computers so we end up with limited operational rights. It will probably become illegal to own an ogg player.

  • NO ! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aepervius (535155) on Friday February 05, 2010 @04:42AM (#31032412)
    Hopefully, at the very least, the fact that parliament has realised this fact will mean that copyright laws will get a little more sane."

    No it will mean even residential user will be forcwed to log everything in their system, and if they do not they will be found breaking the "private logging law" (soon to come). Seeing the power trip the UK is on, you have to be +5 insane or +5 funny to think otherwise.
    • by jimicus (737525)

      No it will mean even residential user will be forcwed to log everything in their system, and if they do not they will be found breaking the "private logging law" (soon to come). Seeing the power trip the UK is on, you have to be +5 insane or +5 funny to think otherwise.

      My fear is you may be correct. I can easily see a future where cable modems and firewalls are forced to ship with extensive logging which cannot be tampered with by the end user (probably logging to a syslog server at the ISP).

      I just hope Labour don't win the upcoming election. Not that I think the Tories are much better right now, but with any luck they'll find they have bigger things to worry about.

  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Friday February 05, 2010 @04:49AM (#31032448) Journal

    Seems the way to beat this copyright cabal is to keep on sharing, keep on using the Internet. Playing their game, trying to outlobby them, looks like a losing proposition. They can lobby for all the laws they like, but they can't rescind the facts of nature, which is that copying is inherent in the universe. This Copyright Inquisition will fizzle out eventually, the likes of Jack Valenti will go down in infamy next to Torquemada, and centuries from now this hatred, fear, and attempted suppression of copying and extreme punishment of alleged copiers will seem as counterproductive, senseless, and inexplicable as the torture of random people does now. Though I would like to see it happen rather sooner than the length of the typical copyright term.

    The lawmakers for their part may choose how they want to look. Do they want to look corrupt, clueless, and irrelevant by taking the money and enacting the industry's idiotic proposals that make about as much sense as enacting a law that pi must equal 3.0? Or look good and far-seeing by not taking the money, and serving the people? Nice that this Lord Lucas is apparently opting for high road. I wish him luck.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kijori (897770)

      Seems the way to beat this copyright cabal is to keep on sharing

      Unfortunately this is the sort of quotation that plays right into their hands.

      It's been a very easy ride for the copyright holders so far - opposition to their plans has come either from ISPs (who are motivated by saving money) or file-sharing advocates; this means it's been very easy for them to dismiss the opposition as greedy, self-interested pirates. The point I'm trying to get across is that it's possible to support copyright and copyright enforcement without supporting these ridiculous measures and wi

  • Mandelson (Score:3, Insightful)

    by selven (1556643) on Friday February 05, 2010 @05:31AM (#31032630)

    Well, at least this makes up for Lord Mandelson.

  • mistaken analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doviende (13523) on Friday February 05, 2010 @05:46AM (#31032702) Homepage
    The poster here is making a big mistake about government. He is assuming that politicians are dumb and uninformed, and have made these bad decisions through ignorance. This assumption leads to the idea that "if only they knew", then they'd choose to make good, smart decisions that benefit the rest of us. If this were the case, all we'd need to do is educate them and things would get better.

    In fact, what we have is a group of wealthy smart businessmen whose financial interests conflict with ours. They have made a series of decisions that benefit themselves and their wealthy friends (who will scratch their backs later when they retire from politics and need a cushy position on someone's corporate board). They are not stupid, and quite often not so misinformed as we would like to think.

    Typically what is happening in one of these situations where some certain politician has one of these "epiphanies" is that he just wants to change his position on something because he has decided that it will benefit him. He makes out like he's been misinformed and has discovered the light. By implying that the opposing side is an unjust position, he's making a persuasive argument for people to support his position.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Marcika (1003625)

      Typically what is happening in one of these situations where some certain politician has one of these "epiphanies" is that he just wants to change his position on something because he has decided that it will benefit him. He makes out like he's been misinformed and has discovered the light. By implying that the opposing side is an unjust position, he's making a persuasive argument for people to support his position.

      You know what's the mistake with your argument? Ralph Lucas is not an electioneering politician and does not need to be. He is a hereditary peer for life.

  • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:56AM (#31033004) Journal

    Hopefully, at the very least, the fact that parliament has realised this fact will mean that copyright laws will get a little more sane.

    I don't want to see more laws, I want to see some prosecutions! Common-law blackmail is still illegal, and still carries life imprisonment & an unlimited fine, and doesn't require the thing threatened to be illegal.

  • I've been following the upper house debates on the Parliament channel for a couple of weeks now.

    The Labour lords are really taking a battering on this bill (The Digital Economy Bill) from all sides - Independent, Lib Dem and Conservative.

    There are a couple of points that they (Labour) really can't seem to explain:

    - Is the 'subscriber' at fault when infringement occurs, or is it the actual infringer who will be served notice?
    - How do you correctly identify the guilty party (infringer), when you have only the

  • Don't be holding your Limey breath waiting for that to happen. Me thinks the MOP is just as corrupt as the US House and Senate.

    Watching CSPAN is getting to be like watching a G-rated version of Rome....

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