Heavy Plant

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With rights come obligations

iiNet Ruling | Piracy Fight Takes a Body Blow

HOLLYWOOD studios and record labels are being forced to go back to the drawing board to come up with a new way of combating online piracy after the Federal Court ruled that internet service providers are not required to police copyright infringement on their networks.

The music industry says it may have no choice but to sue individuals for illegal file sharing unless the federal government intervenes with a solution to its piracy woes.
Let's just look at the last sentence there. Read it again. What it says is that a large, rich industry that holds almost more copyrights than any other is asking for Government protection because it feels unable to defend its' property and is taking the passive-aggressive line that if it doesn't get it then it will have to sue individuals. If you sue an ISP for "authorising" illegal downloading you may as well sue the power companies as well. After all they provided the electricity, they knew people might be doing it with the electricity they supplied and they too failed to monitor if people were or were not doing so. Suing individuals is what they should have been doing in the first place, they don't want to because individuals are the customers. 

If you have rights, responsibilities come with them. In law when you hold a copyright and you wish to continue to hold on to it you are obliged to defend it. It is not the job of federal government or anyone else - with the possible exception of a an industry body with careful oversight - to police your rights for you. You can report rights violations as a crime and then the actual police will step in.

Warning: it's going to get a bit dull and polemic after this so I've put the rest behind the read more link

Content publishers need to get their heads round the idea that in an age of digital distribution you need to rethink what you enforce your copyright on and if indeed it's the copyright that you should be using as your revenue stream. If you are going to use copyright to make money then you need to be prepared to sue customers, because they're the ones who will be copying it. The nature of copyright piracy has changed, the mass copying and distribution of CDs and other hard media by financially motivated criminal organisations has been replaced by small scale sharing between socially motivated individuals.

Digital media has exposed the fact that we all make and share copies of things, not as our primary activity, but as part of being sociable. In the strictest sense of the law that makes us all criminals. When everyone is a criminal it's either time to change the law or give people a way to behave the same way legally. Few people like to break the law. Either copyright law needs serious attention or the content publishers need to engage more fully with digital media.   Traditional media is still lost in trying to drive value through it's old channels and has largely failed to engage with new ones. Everywhere subscription services or reasonably priced individual downloads have been available they have all but halted piratical downloads. Add a social aspect to media and you've got it made; allow them to show what music they've played recently, put their reviews alongside the movies they've watched and show them to other people in their friend list.

The other responsibility implied in holding a copyright is that you have to maintain its value. Prosecuting people that find value in a copyright seems a dubious way of doing that which may even threaten the value of the copyright. Allowing that value to propagate through a more relevant and contemporary medium seems like a much more sensible option.

Interestingly the court ruling appears marginally at odds with government policy. The Australian Federal Government is going to impose a mandatory internet filter at the ISP level later this year. It will be interesting to see if a legal challenge to this could be launched based on whether it's the ISP's duty to filter content.

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