Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Those fancy lawyers' fees paid off, then

The latest snapshot of illegal file-sharing has shown an increase in people 'permanently borrowing' tracks and points to a growing failure of fear of legal action to keep people in line:

[Entertainment Media Research's] fourth annual Digital Music Survey, a poll of 1,700 people, suggests illegal music buying is widespread, with 43% claiming that they are illegally downloading tracks, rising from 36% last year and 40% in 2005. This year only 33% cited the risk of being prosecuted as a deterrent against unauthorised downloading, compared with 42% in 2006.

Of course, what this survey really tracks is how ashamed people are of their behaviour, and how likely they are to 'fess up to a total stranger that they're knowingly ignoring the letter of the law, but even on that basis, it's going to be glum reading for the lawsuit hawks of the RIAA-BPI.

Their response? Clinging to the David Cameron model of trying to make ISPs keep track of the copyrights they themselves have lost control of:
The music industry association BPI hit back, saying future success was not just down to new business models but also better protection against piracy, particularly from internet service providers. "Industry cannot do it alone," said a spokesman. "ISPs as gatekeepers, and government as legislators, must also play an active role in tackling copyright theft if the UK is to thrive as a knowledge economy.".

If you're that interested in trumpeting Britain's 'knowledge economy', you might want to look not so clueless about filesharing. It would be incredibly unhealthy to start to force ISPs to be responsible for what's moving about on their networks (as opposed to published on their servers, a distinction the BPI is keen smudge over) and - indeed - the enormous overhead it would place on companies to not just watch all the data flowing about, but check it all for copyright compliance, tell the difference between a legitimate transfer and an illegitimate one, deal with the inevitable RIAA lawsuits against the ISPs, and try and sort out the horrific privacy implications all this would generate would almost certainly do far more harm to the UK's "knowledge economy" than a few kids sharing a Green Day album.

It would also scupper the more go-ahead BPI companies' attempts to cut their digital distribution costs by using peer-to-peer networks for sales fulfilment.

Is the BPI ever going to stop running to hide behind the dinner lady, and actually direct its energy into building successful online business models instead of complaining about the boys stealing their lunch money? Its talk of vibrant knowledge economies rings hollow when the only idea they have for surviving in the 21st century is convoluted and unenforceable legislation to try and let them pretend its still the 19th.


Anonymous said...

"Digital Music Survey, a poll of 1,700 people, suggests illegal music buying is widespread"

I don't understand the "buying" part of this downloading music illegally? I mean I don't see anywhere else in the article where they record this exchange of money. Is this a mistake in the Guardian article or a lie in the report?

eyetie said...

Given how much easier it is to download music illegally than to buy it, perhaps the author meant "unwarranted music buying" or is that a tautology?

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