- 25 Aug 09, 15:39 GMT
"Peter just doesn't get the internet..."
That was the instant reaction of one person I spoke to this morning about the government's new measures against illegal file-sharing - and Lord Mandelson's part in them. And this was not someone from digital campaigners the Open Rights Group or from an internet service provider, but a political insider from the same party as the business secretary.
The reaction to tough new proposals which could see those who repeatedly indulge in illegal file-sharing have their internet connections suspended has not, it's fair to say, been universally positive.
An executive from a major software business, who did not want to be named, rang me within hours of the announcement to express astonishment."What are they doing?" he asked. "It just won't work - when so many people have unsecured wireless networks, how are you going to pinpoint who the file-sharer is?"
Another critic was not so shy about coming forward. TalkTalk, whose boss Charles Dunstone has long made clear his distaste for anything that would force his business to police its own customers, put out a humdinger of a press release.
It accused the government of a U-turn and said Lord Mandelson had "caved in under pressure from powerful lobbyists in the content industry." And the company emphasised again that this policy would not work and would be strongly resisted. Other ISPs joined in the attack, albeit in more restrained a manner than TalkTalk.
Who, then, was batting for the proposals? Well, obviously the music and video industries, but even they seemed somewhat cautious in their support for what are seen as pretty radical measures. "We don't want to be seen as crowing," one spokesman told me.
It's important that this should be seen as the latest battle in the war between the content industries and the ISPs for the government's support on the file-sharing issue, with this proving a rare victory for the media barons. My understanding is that the original draft of Digital Britain did contain some strong anti-piracy measures, but that Lord Carter stepped in and toned them down.
Now Stephen Carter has left the government and it appears that Lord Mandelson has tipped the balance back towards the interests of the entertainment industries. While much has been made of the dinner attended by the business secretary and the Hollywood mogul David Geffen - the government insists they never even mentioned Digital Britain - there has also been plenty of high-level pressure from the UK film, television and music industries. They sincerely believe that a vital part of our economy is under threat - and that the issue was not taken seriously enough in the original report.
But this battle isn't over yet. By lunchtime, the Department for Business was putting out a new statement stressing that the government does not believe that "taking tough action against consumers is the right approach in every case" and even suggesting that "we have not changed our policy from the Digital Britain report".
The message seems to be that in the battle over anti-piracy measures, there's still plenty to play for. And if Lord Mandelson really "doesn't get the internet", you can be sure that there will be plenty of people now offering to educate him.
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