Bizarrely, the UK government, led by Lord Mandelson, the UK Business Secretary, seems to have done a 180-shift in the past 2 weeks by once again proposing to disconnect alleged file-sharers from the Internet. In other words: if the content industry can't get people to buy music or films, or other so-called content, by offering relevant, fair and affordable new ways to do so, maybe the government can help to force people back into buying the old-fashioned way, i.e. by the unit / copy? Rather than actually change the industry's business model, let's just change the consumers' habits - problem solved!
If you want to be puzzled, just read the UK government's announcement (PDF via Arstechnica). The Net is buzzing with news on this topic; see below. The FT has a good recent update called 'Claws & Effect' here; wherein I read (with little surprise): "Senior music industry figures, such as Lucian Grainge, head of Universal Music International, have been influential in mobilising Westminster to act". Lobbyists succeed again?
The bottom line can be summarized like this: "Let's just see if we can still force people to consume music in the way that suits us better". Never mind that the very similar French Sarkozy-'Bruni' proposal was just recently deemed illegal by the French Constitutional Law as well as by the European commission - maybe some good lobbyists can revert that, as well?
Here are a few quotes I have collected on this topic:
"John Kennedy, chief executive of IFPI, the organisation representing the recording industry worldwide, says: “It is not enshrined in any law anywhere that one has the right to steal music, films and books. There is a crisis in the economy, and as well as respecting rights we have to think about the economy and jobs” (FT) Related read: John Kennedy at RSA
“We welcome the government’s recognition that this problem needs to be addressed urgently, so today is a step forward that should help the legal digital market to grow for consumers,” the BPI, the music industry trade body, said. “The solution to the piracy problem must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive” (FT)
Those who don't like this idea
"Charles Dunstone, chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, one of the UK’s biggest providers, says: “We are going to fight [being forced to disconnect customers] as hard as we can. Our fundamental duty is to protect the rights of our subscribers” (FT)
"A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “We share the government’s commitment to addressing the piracy problem and recognise that new laws have an important role to play in this. But persuasion not coercion is the key to changing consumer behaviour as a heavy-handed, punitive regime will simply alienate mainstream consumers. The government should be ensuring a balance of action against repeat infringers and the rapid development of new legitimate services that provide a compelling alternative to illegal file-sharing" (FT)
"Internet provider TalkTalk said it would "strongly resist" government attempts to oblige Internet service providers to act as Internet police. TalkTalk said disconnecting alleged offenders "will be futile given that it is relatively easy for determined filesharers to mask their identity or their activity to avoid detection" (HuffPo)
One of my favorite quotes, via Labour MP Tom Watson: “Challenged by the revolutionary distribution mechanism that is the internet, big publishers with their expensive marketing and PR operations and big physical distribution networks, are seeing their power and profits diminish. Faced with the choice of accepting this and innovating, or attempting, King Canute-style, to stay the tide of change, they’re choosing the latter option, and looking to Parliament for help with some legislative sand bags” (FT)
Some important facts and other related snippets (quotes from various sources):
- Proposed EU telecommunications legislation includes a clause stating that internet access is a fundamental human right (FT)
- In Ireland, internet companies UPC and BT Ireland have refused to comply with music companies’ requests to cut off suspected pirates (FT)
- The Sunday Times claims that Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, has been persuaded that pirates should be deprived of internet access altogether after dining with “Hollywood mogul” David Geffen *via FT (no surprise here, either;)
- Petition (38degrees)
- OpenRightsGroup Statement
- UK Pirate Party comment.
I have been saying this since 1999: the solution to illegal filesharing is to legalize the way that people share content online, to create new, public, compulsory licenses for content, starting with music (yes, just like the Radio / Broadcasting license), to create fair and flexible licensing standards, and to reduce control in favor of compensation.
The UK's trend towards increased criminalization is just plain old wrong, technologically absurd and utter fantasy, culturally 500% retro, and socially unjustifiable. Techdirt's Mike Masnick sums it up nicely: "You may kick people off the internet, but does anyone honestly think that will actually get people to buy again?"
Here are some of my many contributions on this topic:
- Compensation not Control: Video, PDF on slideshare
- Music Like Water (essays)
- My comment on Paul McGuinness's version of the Internet (Midem 2008)