UK's serious crime squad serves Big Content

UK police have engaged on a Sweeney style take-down operation on the owners of a music blog in one of the largest police over-reactions to piracy seen in the country.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency, whose job it is to protect citizens from gangsters with guns, has turned its skills and tax money on the people running the R&B site The site, like many music blogs, did post various videos and commentaries about new music but normally there is a trial to decide if the information is infringement.

If the police were worried about the site illegally sharing music, they could have approached Nominet to take down the domain. A couple of police could have asked the site holders to help them with their inquiries down at the station and arrested them if they thought a crime had been committed. They would probably get a day in a Magistrates court and a fine.

SOCA took over the site and put up a takedown page. The page says that it is logging  the IP address of everyone who visits, as well as operating system and location, and threatens that SOCA could be on your manor too.

“SOCA has the capability to monitor and investigate you, and can inform your internet service provider of these infringements,” it threatens.

What is perhaps alarming is that no one appears to have called SOCA out on this particular threat, nor has it explained why expensive elite police resources are being wasted acting as a commercial operations’ personal force. 

If British citizens were presented with a choice between shutting down a file sharing website or raiding a crack house, most would probably pump for the latter.

The complaint against the site owners appears to have come from the US which claims it controls the .com domain. That means that British police were used to shut down a site which the US claims it controls. In other words, UK police are obeying directives from US cops and seizing British property on behalf of foreign governments.

Given that it is fairly unlikely that the US would allow what they insist are “domestic” domains to be seized by foreign countries, this is pretty grim.

The site’s threats are rubbish. Downloading music would not get you 10 years porridge or an “unlimited fine”. To get that sort of charge you would have to be downloading for money, while robbing a bank, shooting someone and perhaps buggering a gerbil at the same time.

SOCA’s threat page claims that the music was “stolen” from artists is the pure rhetoric of Big Content. Any police officer would tell you that to steal something is when you deprive something from someone without the intention of giving it back. At no point can this website have taken the song away from any artist. At the worst they might have prevented them from making a few sales, but that is not theft.

Also alarming is the fact that the British police seem to think that scaring users by displaying their IP address at them will turn them into model citizens. The RIAA tried this threat and everyone laughed at them.

It is not against the law to visit a website. Showing your IP address next to a message suggesting visitors are about to be put in jail is not possible in a country which has an established system of justice.

It is worrying that British police seem to think they have the right to “monitor” you for visiting an R&B website.