Mandelson wants more copyright power

Peter Mandelson

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson is looking to take his campaign against file sharers even further by changing copyright law.

According to reports, Mandelson wrote a letter to house leader Harriet Harman, asking to change the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act in order to take on illegal file sharing.

The change would simply be an amendment to the act, which would happen much more quickly than passing the Digital Economy Bill. Published today, that bill looks to cut off the broadband connects of persistent pirates.

The tweak to the Copyright Act would give "any person as may be specified" the power to take action on online infringement.

According to a report in the Guardian, Mandelson is worried about what he calls "cyberlockers" - essentially online storage services.

"These can be used entirely legitimately, but recently rights holders have pointed to them as being used for illegal use," Mandelson reportedly wrote in the letter.

While he admits, consumers won't like the plan, Mandelson wrote: "I expect rights holders to welcome this and to support it. ISPs are likely to be neutral until it is clear what effect it will have on them in terms of costs."

Many ISPs are already angry about the plans in the Digital Economy Bill, which would see them forced to cut off file sharers. Rights groups have long argued against the disconnection plans since they were announced.

The plans were slammed by well-known blogger Cory Doctorow, who wrote: "This is as bad as I've ever seen, folks. It's a declaration of war by the entertainment industry and their captured regulators against the principles of free speech, privacy, freedom of assembly, the presumption of innocence, and competition."

He added: "This proposal creates the office of Pirate-Finder General, with unlimited power to appoint militias who are above the law, who can pry into every corner of your life, who can disconnect you from your family, job, education and government, who can fine you or put you in jail."