UK police chief says downloading is gateway drug to crime

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

June 16, 2015

So… according to Andy Archibald, deputy director of the National Cyber Crime Unit at the UK’s National Crime Agency, downloading the latest thrilling episode of Game of Thrones is ‘a gateway into the dark side’…!

Ooh, scary! This level insight displayed by such a senior police chief is truly a testament to intellectual calibre and technological sophistication that the UK establishment use as criteria when making high-powered appointments. According to Mr Archibald,

If you think about the illegal downloading of music, of videos and DVDs, I think that practice is more common than we might imagine within the youth of today.

Really? Well I never! It has certainly been common practice since this writer was a kid and copied music to blank cassettes (often from copies of copies of copies), and movies from the TV onto blank VHS cassettes. As a statement, this is about as insightful as stating that the Pope is Catholic.

‘That’s criminality.

Actually, according to the relevant legislation (Section 107 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988), that is not criminality unless:

a) The copier makes a profit from his or her actions, and

b) The copyright owner can demonstrate that harm has resulted from the copiers’ actions.

Courts the world over have generally sided with copyright owners over point b) (regardless of lack of evidence), but the law is clear that in the UK a crime has only been committed if the copying was performed ‘in the course of a business.’ Copying for private use is not a criminal offense in the UK, and to claim so is frankly dishonest!

That’s the first stages, I believe, of a gateway into the dark side.

Not only is this an assertion entirely unsubstantiated by any actual evidence, but the underlying thinking behind it is completely wonky. Every criminal has gone to school ≠ anyone who goes to school is a criminal. Similarly, even if we are to accept that copyright piracy is a crime (it isn’t), it does not follow that this will lead to further criminal behavior (does jaywalking lead to gun crime?)

Continuing his line of muddled thinking, Archibald then attempts a bit scaremongering (presumably) aimed at technologically illiterate parents who do not understand social networks, the digital age, or how the real online world actually operates,

There are many of our young people, and not only young people, who are becoming highly skilled and capable in a digital environment. It’s important that they put those skills to good use and are not tempted to become involved, unwittingly in cyber criminality. They are members of forums and are exchanging ideas in a marketplace that criminals are looking (at). They are looking for people with technical skills who can complement their criminal business. They are looking to recruit those people. They try to induce and manipulate them.

This is the usual cyber-scaremongering gumph, which along with rallying cries such as ‘beware the terrorists’ and ‘ the internet is awash with kiddie-porn’ are irresponsibly used by the authorities to sow FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt), keeping the public off-balance so that the government can justify ever greater surveillance powers and restrictive control over our internet freedoms.

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