28 January 2009

Minister Talks Sense on Copyright

Just to prove that I'm not deliberately negative about everything the government does, I like to offer a bit of praise when it is (all too rarely) due. This is one of those occassions.

In an interview with the Times, David Lammy said that the government had ruled out legislating to force ISPs to disconnect people who illegally share copyrighted material over the internet.

The whole "three strikes" approach was always a stupid idea. It would have violated the basic principles of justice, in that the accused would have been deemed guilty based purely on the existence of an accusation, with no obvious right of appeal to the courts. The punishment would also have been completely out of proportion to the offence. I expect that the Carter report will end up proposing a stupid resolution to the situation, such as the predicted introduction of a levy on ISPs to be paid to the music industry, but for now, I'm going to enjoy the fact that someone in the government is at least making the right noises.

The one thing that has disappointed me about the reporting of this story is the mis-use of terminology by the media. The use of the term "piracy" has been common. Piracy is robbery committed at sea. The use of the word to refer to illegal copying is a piece of propaganda to make it appear like a serious offence, when it clearly isn't. The BBC
report started with the sentence: "The UK's Intellectual Property minister David Lammy has said the government will not force internet service providers to pursue file sharers." This implies that file sharing and its associated technology is in itself illegal. In reality, it is used perfectly legitimately in a lot of circumstances, such as distributing free and open source software. I get the feeling that the positive uses of P2P are being suppressed as they are a barrier to the prohibition of P2P technology, which is clearly what a number of groups want, for censorship as well as profit making purposes. On the positive side, the false description of copyright enfringement as theft seems less popular than it was.


AntiCitizenOne said...

World of WarCraft uses BitTorrent technology to propagate updates.

Paul Lockett said...

Another use I forget about while I was writing is the download version of BBC's iPlayer, which makes the BBC's broad-brush reference to file-sharing look even more ridiculous.