Before Xmas I got a reply from my MP about The letter I wrote her earlier. Been too busy/lazy to update on that. The best bits follow.
The Government has a difficult balance to reach between protecting the creative industry from potentially huge losses incurred through illegal file sharing, and respecting individuals’ rights to unrestricted and private use of the internet. The Creative Industries are currently undermined by illegal file sharing and measures to address it are due.
However, I understand your concern regarding the proportionality of proposed measures on peer to peer file sharing. A number of questions need to be answered including where due precess fits into a penalty enforceable by the Internet Service Providers. Furthermore, fears about the security and privacy of our private data and internet activity need to be addressed. I have written to the Secretary Of State for Business Innovation and Skills to raise these concerns[…].
In my view the industry should be putting it’s energies into developing new business solutions and greater compromises may need to be made in order to develop these new business models.
I have written to Jack Straw to ask for more information on the next steps for reform of law in the area and I will write again when I receive a response.
She seems to be under the impression that file-sharing reduces sales. Despite the fact that the most shared things also sell the most, which is a common enough mistake I guess. Understandable, if mistaken. It’s not clear from her reply if these “greater compromises” are copyrightists having to allow sharing, or file-sharers having to give up their privacy and freedom. Probably both I guess, that’s the nature of compromise.
Anyway, I bring that up because she has indeed written again now that she has a response.
The Minister reiterates the importance of legislating to address online copyright infringement and explains briefly the process by which those identified as infringing copyright will receive warning from their ISPs and may be subject to a court action if the ISP is required to identify them to the rights holder as a result of a court order by the rights holder.
The further powers granted to the Secretary Of State by the Digital Economy Bill allow him/her to introduce technical powers through secondary legislation. As the Minister explains, these technical measures could include a restriction on bandwidth, or temporary suspension. The working of the independent appeals procedure which would be overseen by Ofcom are less clearly set out. The Bill is currently being scrutinised by the House of Lords and I am sure the Government will be pressed further on these powers. I will be following the passage of the Bill carefully.
At least it sounds like she can see giving the secondary powers is wrong, though it also appears she’ll merely stand by and give her consent to such a thing should her party demand it.
She encloses the reply sent ot her from Stephen Timms:
The Government wants as many people as possible top enjoy all the benefits that broadband internet can bring. New technology has changed the way people wnat to use and access media content, in some cases faster than products and services commercially on offer have developed. We are also clear that the benefits of the internet must include economic benefits for our creative industries and artists. We therefore take extremely seriously the problem of on-line copyright infringement, and have been working closely with rights holders, media companies and internet fiorms to develop practical solutions to reduce and prevent this
Note: Big companies. They’re talking to big companies, and no file sharers. No independent artists. No small struggling bands. Nobody with an actual myspace page. Likely no actual constituents. None of the people they’re actually paid to represent. This is fairly typical.
Whilst all parties would prefer a voluntary solution, rather than regulatory, it is clear that such a commercial solution is very difficult to achieve We recognise that one problem is the need for a level playing field and therefore acknowledge the need for a regulatory baseline.
The digital economy bill, published 20th November, sets out in detail our proposed legislation to tackle on-line copyright infringement, including unlawful peer to peer file-sharing. The Bill will impliment many of the key recommendations in the Government’s Digital Britain Report.
The Bill would require ISPs to write to their customers whose accounts had been identified by a right holder as having been used for illegal down loading of their material. In the cases of the most serious infringers, if a right holder obtains a court order, the ISP would have to provide information so that the rights holder can take targeted court action.
We hope these arrangement on their own will secure the 70% reduction in illegal peer to peer file sharing which is our aim. If that proves not to be the case, the Bill provides a reserve power obliging an ISP to apply ‘technical measures’ to a customer’s internet account to restrict or prevent illegal sharing. Technical measures might be a band width restriction, a daily downloading limit or, as a last resort, temporary account suspension. A proper independent appeal would be available against application of technical measures.
More widely we also include a reserve power to amend the Copyright Design and Paten Act. This will allow us to tackle quickly any misuse of emerging technologies for copyright infringement and provive an element of future proofing. These measures were adopted following two consultations on file-sharing and extensive meeting with all stakeholders.
ALL stakeholders? ALL of them? I wonder if Richard Stallman was there? I wonder how much attention they paid to Cory Doctorow? Or to ME, come to that. I wonder if those “stakeholders” were actually their constituents at all?
We also recognise the need to ensure proper education of consumers, for new attractive legal sources of content as well as a system of notifications. Notifications will play a significant part in that education role, but it is vital that there are attractive legal offers available so that unlawful behaviour is no longer the “default” for many seeking content on-line. Rights holders need business models which work in the new digital environment. That is why we welcomed the announcements such as the Virgin Media and Universal agreement, the development of Spotify and the music offers announced by Vodafone and Sky. These are the types of agreement which will play a critical role in moving the great majority of people away from piracy.
The agreements to which he refers, of course, are the agreements which are designed to ensure the big companies retain their stranglehold over our culture, that they remain the gate-keepers, able to determine which data is pushed at you through their ‘legal’ channels and blocking out all those who don’t play their corporate game.
It’s also interesting that these laws are being written by someone who still says “on-line” rather than online, who still says “down loading” rather than downloading, “band width” rather than bandwidth. Clearly people invested in net culture.
There’s only one party which actually understands the issues here, which isn’t in the pockets of the media giants.