By Daniel Martin
Mandelson goes to war on teenagers downloading their music and movies… just days after dining with anti-piracy billionaire
Lord Mandelson launched a crackdown on internet piracy just days after meeting a leading Hollywood critic of illegal file sharing.
The business secretary plans to criminalise the estimated seven million people – one in 12 of the population – who illicitly download music and films over the internet.
In what critics describe as a gross attack on civil liberties, those flouting new laws could see their internet accounts suspended and face fines of up to £50,000.
Parents could even be thrown off the net even if it is their children are caught downloading tracks upstairs in their bedrooms, not them.
Lord Mandelson ordered officials to draw up the draconian regulations days after dinner with David Geffen, who founded the Asylum record label which signed Bob Dylan.
The pair dined on 7 August at the Rothschild family villa on Corfu, while Mandelson was holidaying on the Greek island.
Tory backbencher David Davies said: ‘It does seem a remarkable coincidence. Peter Mandelson should be forced to reveal the full extent of his meetings with wealthy friends on holiday and, in the name of openness, disclose exactly what they discussed.’
The controversial new laws, set to be announced in a ‘Digital Britain’ bill to be published next month, would target broadband users who persistently download music and films for nothing.
Last week the Pirate Party, which won a Swedish European Parliament seat in June on a platform of legal file sharing, announced it would be standing in the General Election.
Andrew Robinson, leader of the Pirate Party UK, who will be standing against Worcester Labour MP Michael Foster, said the proposed laws represented an attack on civil liberties. ‘This is about proving to the major parties that there are so many votes to be had in adopting policies like ours,’ he said.
A spokesman for Lord Mandelson said file sharing was not discussed at the dinner with Mr Geffen.
‘Work has been ongoing on these issues for a matter of weeks,’ he said. ‘Lord Mandelson does not believe Digital Britain is even on David Geffen’s radar.’
But a source at his business department said: ‘Until the past week, Mandelson had shown little personal interest in the Digital Britain agenda. Suddenly Peter returned from holiday and effectively issued this edict that the regulation needs to be tougher.’