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Lord Lucas Says Record Companies "Blackmail" Users 236

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 theheadlessrabbit ( 1022587 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:08AM (#31032056) Homepage 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"

    mod summary +1 funny

  • by cbope ( 130292 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:23AM (#31032110)

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:29AM (#31032128)

    by the lawmakers, and in turn, will require all home networking equipment to have logging and backdoors for the UK police and the music industry hit squads to monitor your activities within your own home?

    That's how I see this unfolding, someone will take into consideration what he said, and pass an archaic law like that, oh and at the cost of the citizenry too. Not complying will also result in being shipped to a prison camp.

    After all, our holy masters of the music industry must be satisfied.

  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @03:56AM (#31032218)

    Anyone in the US should realize that, its the same job the Supreme Court is supposed to fill (and sometime even does). The problem is it can go the other way- an unelected group can put the breaks on needed legislation and good change. For a US example, see the Dred Scott decision. The trick is finding a way to assign people to that group that honestly have the best for the nation and the people in mind- not an easy task. Any system you build will eventually fail it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05, 2010 @04:00AM (#31032226)

    Vader? I think you mean Mandelson.

  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @04:14AM (#31032270)
    here's a clue why the US systems fails - it's filled with god damn lawyers!
  • by LainTouko ( 926420 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @04:23AM (#31032314)

    If you say "Fuck you", they'll leave you alone and go and find someone more easily intimidated into giving them money. None of these cases has ever gone to court, and they're clearly worried about killing the cash cow if it does happen.

    (A couple of related cases did go to court a while back, but I think they cherry-picked people who chose ill-advised defenses which effectively admitted the bits which are impossible to prove. And someone who had moved and wasn't getting any letters, so would never turn up to defend themselves in the first place.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05, 2010 @04:24AM (#31032318)

    When you say condone, do you mean condemn? Because they are actually opposites, as it happens.

  • by Merls the Sneaky ( 1031058 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @04:29AM (#31032344)

    Copyright infringement is not theft.

  • 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 bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> 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.

  • Mandelson (Score:3, Insightful)

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

    Well, at least this makes up for Lord Mandelson.

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @05:33AM (#31032640)

    It's quite good that the Nobles finally stand for their nation and condone globalisation.

    I would have expected it to come from a civil entity as it should be expected from a democracy.

    Most of the hereditary lords lost their seats years ago when Labour first came to power. So they're not the nobles they once were.

    However - and this is the important bit - they are not elected by the voting public. Seats are (generally speaking) for life.

    This is completely counter-intuitive and flies in the face of democracy. I guarantee there will be at least one person who will reply saying "What a ridiculous system" or words to that effect. But the thing is, it works quite well. IIRC the Lords can't introduce legislation themselves but they can discuss and block legislation that's coming through - and because their seat is for life, they don't need to worry too much about pandering to either a panicked electorate or to commercial interests who are going to be funding their next election campaign.

    In fact, it works rather too well in some cases. Our Glorious Former Leader, Blair, very nearly discovered this to his cost with a few of his anti-terror bills. They only got through because of the use of "emergency" legislation which essentially allowed him to bypass the House of Lords.

  • by Kijori ( 897770 ) <ward.jake@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> 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 [], 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 []. 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 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.

  • 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.
  • by Kijori ( 897770 ) <ward.jake@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday February 05, 2010 @05:49AM (#31032718)

    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 without giving complete power to record companies.

    Copyright itself is not a bad thing. Nor is copyright enforcement - disregarding the exacting definitions that are popular on Slashdot, file sharing is, in one important way, very like stealing - you get something you want without having to pay for it. What is wrong is the idea that people should be punished based only on the accusations of the copyright holders. The fact that it is nearly impossible to get anywhere through the courts isn't representative of file-sharers being cunning and impossible to find, it's representative of the fact that it is difficult to establish, on balance of probabilities, that they have actually infringed on your copyright. Changing the law to allow those people to be punished doesn't get round the fundamental unfairness of punishing people you can't prove have done anything wrong.

  • 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.

  • Re:Mandelson (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:27AM (#31032890)

    Nothing makes up for Mandelson.

  • by dargaud ( 518470 ) <slashdot2@gdarga[ ]net ['ud.' in gap]> on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:28AM (#31032892) Homepage
    I used to think the house of lords was a ridiculous system, particularly when it was inherited. But now I recognize the need for a permanent govt structure with long term goals and stability. I think a system like that would work well with its members being elected for life based on various criteria: some named by the govt, some voted, some through some lifetime achievements (a few famous actors, journalists, artists, sportsmen, winners of work trade awards, persons nominated for civilian bravery, etc) in order to maximize variety. You don't want pro politicians in a system like that.
  • by delinear ( 991444 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:37AM (#31032928)
    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 circuses indeed.
  • by Anonymous Cowpat ( 788193 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:37AM (#31032930) Journal

    The Lords can block 'money' bills but, by convention, don't. They did once at the start of the 20th century, that's why we had the first parliament act.
    The Lords also let through any bill which is an implementation of the ruling party's last manifesto.

  • Re:Mandelson (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ma8thew ( 861741 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:53AM (#31032984)
    No he doesn't. Madelson seems to have a greater influence on the government than Gordon Brown, whereas Lucas has almost none.
  • by Eivind ( 15695 ) <> 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 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05, 2010 @08:01AM (#31033242)

    It's also why at times the Lords can do a very good job.

    They go wrong at times. Some of us question the Lords Spiritual because we do not agree with their position as a special interest group with clout. On a whole the House of Lords can be that extra check for a government. Reading the transcripts of their debates on various topics they seem to have time to discuss things properly and do so without the party political point scoring we see in the lower house. There are some ideas that the lower house come up with for which we are glad that there is someone to get in the way and block it.

  • by Courageous ( 228506 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @09:06AM (#31033564)

    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 NotBornYesterday ( 1093817 ) on Friday February 05, 2010 @09:54AM (#31033906) Journal
    We all draw our morals (those of us who have them, anyway) from different sources, including religion, philosophy, and personal experience. By our nature, and by the nature of how we see and experience things, we each have a slightly different perspective on these things. Despite the current vogue for blaming religion for many of the world's problems, the truth is that a vast amount of good takes place in the name of religion thanks to the various moral teachings among them (care for the sick and hungry, don't screw someone else's spouse, teach people not to lie, steal, and kill). The evil done in the world isn't the fault of religion itself - it is the fault of arrogant people who pervert religion to their own ends. If you really want to find evil, look to some of the more notable atheists, like Mao and Stalin.

    If this guy finds that religion helps him not to do things he shouldn't, who are you to question it? Your arrogance and intolerance in dismissing and belittling value systems of others is similar to those who perpetrate the "religious" abuses you refer to.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05, 2010 @06:47PM (#31040670)

    Copyright itself is not a bad thing.

    I think everybody should agree it is a bad thing. Someone might think of it as the lesser evil (I don't) but it has many obvious downsides.

    file sharing is, in one important way, very like stealing - you get something you want without having to pay for it.

    No, copyright infringement is illegal, that's all. I don't pay for many things: air, sunlight, good company, jogging outdoors, learning new things. Nevertheless, I don't consider myself a thief, and gladly, the law so far is on my side.

    Your approach to the topic is way off base. It's fundamentally looking at life as a game of mutual exploitation instead of an opportunity to maximize the common good.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."