The internet is abuzz (Irish Times | EFF | ars technica | Boing Boing) with the news that Eircom and the record labels have reached an out of court settlement in which Eircom has agreed to implement a “three strikes” regime for disconnecting people accused of filesharing. In return, the music industry has dropped its demand that Eircom apply a filtering system to its network.
It’s undoubtedly a good thing that the idea of filtering has (at least for the time being) been dropped – and in case you’ve forgotten, here’s why it’s a bad idea. But this new three strikes system has the potential to be just as bad. Why?
It’s unreliable. The company which the Irish music industry used in previous cases to identify filesharers – MediaSentry – has a track record of false accusations and in fact was recently found to be operating illegally in several US states. As a result the music industry has now dumped MediaSentry and has turned to Danish firm Dtecnet – but the inherent unreliability of this process remains.
It’s secret. We normally expect rules to be made in public, to be accessible to citizens and to be applied publicly. In this case, though, the settlement is private to the parties and we don’t know how it will be implemented by Eircom. Do you expect the right to challenge evidence in court? Perhaps a right to appeal? Tough. On the face of it the music industry and Eircom will between them act as judge, jury and executioner.
It’s undemocratic. The European Parliament has already rejected a similar plan to disconnect individuals based on mere accusations. In other countries where three strikes has been discussed there has been public input via legislatures and public consultation. (And in the UK the democratic process led to three strikes being shelved.) Here, however, the music industry is trying to foist the system onto ISPs while sidelining the Oireachtas and the democratic process.
It’s disproportionate. Daithi makes this point well:
The present-day Internet includes communication (email), socialising (IM, social networking etc), media consumption (websites, blog, streaming, etc), media creation (ditto), access to Government services, online commerce, etc. Now imagine that the sanction for a, let’s face it, relatively minor crime (copyright infringement, while economically significant, is hardly manslaughter), includes no use of the postal services, highly limited access to shops, no permission to read a newspaper, reduced ability to use public services or get public information, and more. That’s no minor sanction. Indeed, most prisoners can get things like reading material and send and receive letters! Not to mention that a Net disconnection has an impact on family members and others.
It will affect innocent third parties. Internet connections are not generally unique to an individual. Instead they’re shared – amongst families, flatmates, etc. But this system will mean that others will suffer based on the alleged wrongdoing of another. As the Open Rights Group points out:
if Dad gets the connection cut off … suddenly Mum can’t run her business from home, and the kids can’t get access to the Web to do their homework.
January 29th, 2009
The European Parliament is currently considering proposals that would dramatically increase – close to doubling – the length of copyright in music recordings. We’d like you to tell your MEP to vote no.
Why are these proposals being pushed? Because copyright in many classic recordings from the 50s and early 60s is about to expire, making them part of the public domain.
What would the effect of the proposals be? The result would be to lock up those recordings for a further 45 years, depriving the public of the ability to reissue and rework those recordings. The outcome will be to benefit the music industry and to injure the public interest. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Here’s what the leading experts in copyright throughout Europe had to say:
Copyright extension is the enemy of innovation
Sir, Europe’s recorded music was about to experience a wave of innovation. For the first time, a major set of culturally important artefacts was to enter the public domain: the sound recordings of the 1950s and 1960s. Apparently not so. If the European Commission has its way, re-releases and reworkings of recorded sounds will remain at the mercy of right owners for another 45 years. Why?
The record industry succeeded to supply the Commission with evidence that was not opened to public scrutiny: evidence that claims that consumer prices will not rise, that performing artists will earn more, and that the record industry will invest in discovering new talents, as if exclusive rights for 50 years had not provided an opportunity to earn returns.
The Commission’s explanatory memorandum states: “There was no need for external expertise.” Yet, independent external expertise exists. Unanimously, the European centres for intellectual property research have opposed the proposal. The empirical evidence has been summarised succinctly in at least three studies: the Cambridge Study for the UK Gowers Review of 2006; a study conducted by the Amsterdam Institute for Information Law for the Commission itself (2006); and the Bournemouth University statement signed by 50 leading academics in June 2008.
The simple truth is that copyright extension benefits most those who already hold rights. It benefits incumbent holders of major back-catalogues, be they record companies, ageing rock stars or, increasingly, artists’ estates. It does nothing for innovation and creativity. The proposed Term Extension Directive undermines the credibility of the copyright system. It will further alienate a younger generation that, justifiably, fails to see a principled basis.
Many of us sympathise with the financial difficulties that aspiring performers face. However, measures to benefit performers would look rather different. They would target unreasonably exploitative contracts during the existing term, and evaluate remuneration during the performer’s lifetime, not 95 years.
We call on politicians of all parties to examine the case presented to them by right holders in the light of independent evidence.
Professor Lionel Bently, Director, Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law, University of Cambridge; Professor Pierre-Jean Benghozi, Chair in Innovation and Regulation in Digital Services; Director, Research in Economics and Management, Ecole polytechnique, CNRS 1, Paris; Professor Michael Blakeney, Co-Director, Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Institute, University of London; Professor Nicholas Cook, Director, AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music, Royal Holloway, University of London; Professor Dr. Thomas Dreier, Director, Centre for Information Law, Universität Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology; Professor Dr Josef Drexl, Director, Max-Planck-Institute for Intellectual Property, Munich; Dr Christophe Geiger, Associate Professor and Director elect, Centre for International Industrial Property Studies (CEIPI), University of Strasbourg; Professor Johanna Gibson, Co-Director, Queen Mary Intellectual Property Research Centre, University of London; Professor Dr Reto Hilty, Director, Max-Planck-Institute for Intellectual Property, Munich; Professor Dr Thomas Hoeren, Director, Institute for Information, Telecommunications- and Media Law, Münster University; Professor Bernt Hugenholtz, Director, Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam; Professor John Kay, Chair, British Academy Copyright Review; Professor Martin Kretschmer, Director, Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management, Bournemouth University; Professor Dr Annette Kur, Max-Planck-Institute for Intellectual Property, Munich; Professor Hector MacQueen, Co-Director, SCRIPT/AHRC Centre Intellectual Property & Technology Law, University of Edinburgh; Professor Ruth Towse, Professor of the Economics of Creative Industries, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Bournemouth University; Professor Charlotte Waelde, Co-Director, SCRIPT/AHRC Centre Intellectual Property & Technology Law, University of Edinburgh
OK, I’m convinced. What can I do to oppose this? The people to contact are the MEPs for your constituency. A full list (with contact details) is here.
So what should I say when contacting them? A petition against these changes has been organised by (amongst others) the UK Open Rights Group and EDRI . You might like to use the text of that petition (slightly modified):
I am a constituent of yours in … and the question of copyright is important to me.
The European Parliament is being asked to nearly double the term of copyright afforded to sound recordings. Industry lobbyists suggest that extending copyright term will help increase the welfare of performers and session musicians. But the Term Extension Directive, which will be voted on by the Legal Affairs Committee in a few weeks’ time, will do no such thing. Instead it will hand millions of euros over to the world’s four major record labels, money that will come direct from the pockets of European consumers. The majority (80%) of recording artists will receive between €0.50 – €26 a year.
Helping poor recording artists is a commendable aim. But the Term Extension Directive insults these good intentions. Andrew Gowers, former editor of the Financial Times, who conducted an independent review into the intellectual property framework for the UK Government in 2006, has called it out of tune with reality. Professor Bernt Hugenholtz, who advises the European Commission on intellectual property issues, has called it a deliberate attempt on behalf of the Commission to mislead Europe’s Parliament. If passed, the Term Extension Directive will have serious consequences for Europe’s IP policy.
* Any extension of copyright term will take money directly from consumers’ pockets. It will also consign a large part of Europe’s cultural heritage to a commercial vacuum.
* Europe’s leading IP research centres have clearly shown the proposal does not do what it purports to do – help the poorest performers. It is simply a windfall for the owners of large back catalogues and the top earning performers.
* The proposal will undermine public respect for copyright law and introduce an unworkable and unproven framework for copyright, at the very time when Europe’s copyright framework needs to be at its most robust.
I therefore ask you to vote to reject this directive.
So when should I contact my MEP? As soon as possible – attempts are being made to fast track this measure through before public opposition grows.
January 21st, 2009
Karlin Lillington has an interesting story in today’s Irish Times on recent UK developments in surveillance and what they might mean for Ireland. Here’s an excerpt:
NET RESULTS: When it comes to abuse of privacy, where Britain goes, Ireland tends to follow. That’s why we should be worried – very worried – about developments across the Irish Sea that emerged as the year rolled over into 2009, writes Karlin Lillington.
First came a New Year’s Eve story in the Guardian that home secretary Jacqui Smith will propose the creation of a single giant communications database and the option of outsourcing the storage of all the personal details held under the UK’s data retention regime to a private firm.
That means potentially that a single repository – a massive, national communications database – would hold all the details about, though not the content of, everyone’s e-mails, phone calls, faxes, text messages and internet use.
The same array of data is retained in Ireland as well, though at the moment, as is the case in Britain, data is retained by the communications providers, not in a central database.
Gathering such a spread of private information into a single database would create a “hellhouse” of personal private data that would not only be vulnerable to security breaches on a massive scale but would prove too great a temptation for law enforcement, according to Britain’s former director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken McDonald.
McDonald was scathing in his criticism of the idea. “Authorisations for access might be written into statute,” he told the Guardian. “But none of this means anything. All history tells us that assurances like these are worthless in the long run. In the first security crisis, the locks would loosen.”
While “security” would be cited as the main impetus for such a database, “the notion of total security is a paranoid fantasy that would destroy everything that makes living worthwhile” and bring an “ugly future”, he said.
One of the areas she points out – remote searches or the ability of the police to remotely hack into your computer to find evidence or monitor your activity – will certainly be one of the big issues of 2009. While Irish law doesn’t currently deal with this issue, there are moves at EU level to encourage (and possibly eventually require) all member states to allow remote searches. This becomes more worrying when combined with a growing law enforcement desire to be able to conduct “remote cross border searches” – that is, for the police in country A to be able to hack into a computer in country B. This strategy – also known as “chasing bits across borders” presents its own problems for privacy and especially accountability.
January 9th, 2009