Net Neutrality Debates Relevance To Online Piracy


nnsummitsfLast month witnessed ever increasing noise in terms of the raging Net Neutrality debate in the United States and then the “three strikes and you’re out” policy of disconnecting persistent file sharers in Europe. TMV believes there is a clear similarity between each issue. Furthermore we believe it is important to analyse the arguments coming from both sides to ensure a common sense and viable consensus is put forward.

Examining the Net Neutrality debate in the United States brings up some dynamic opinions. Ex-presidential republican candidate John McCain has come out against the proposed legislation stating, “these regulations will only serve to hurt consumers”. It should be noted however, that McCain has received more than eight hundred and ninety thousand US dollars in contribution from AT & T, Verizon and Comcast et al. So money certainly does seem to buy political argument – in the United States anyway…

Drilling down further, the new proposed legislation according to Wired magazine means that “broadband providers must not block users from sending legal content on the net. They must let users run the applications and services they like and connect whatever devices they care to. And providers must not harm competition amongst ISPs or online services”. There you have it.

So TMV ponders what are the implications for Apple’s close-walled mentality in terms of this Net Neutrality legislation and Apple’s iTunes store along with its iPod and iPhone hardware? Device and service interoperability should in TMVs view be legislated for, both within the EU and the United States.

The reason there has been such uproar is that this new legislation will also apply to 3G, satellite and WiMax technologies. According to the Wireless Association in the United States the mooted legislation will “stifle innovation and harm consumers”. Whereas on the flipside legislators and TMV believe this new legislation will in actual fact promote innovation. It is also worth noting if we go back to the days when AOL and others charged per message to send emails, history has proven that anything ISPs and wireless providers want is generally detrimental to consumers and innovation.

Chairman of the FCC Julius Genachowski clearly stated, “open internet principals apply only to lawful content, services and applications – not to activities like unlawful distribution of copyrighted works, which has serious economic consequences.”. Obviously that statement is a big plus for the content industries in relation to piracy. However more importantly Genachowshi went on to state “enforcement of copyright and other laws and the obligations of network openness can and must co-exist”. TMV believes this to be a key reinforcement that copyrighted content does deserve protection in the digital realm.

You may ask how and why this is relevant to, firstly music and secondly the “three strikes and you’re disconnected” debate in Europe? Quite simply if passed the aforementioned Net Neutrality rules will in fact ensure ISPs and Wireless Carriers do not neglect their moral obligations (and by the looks of it soon to be legal obligations) to prevent the file-sharing of illegal copyrighted content over their networks in the United States. Couple this with a softening EU line in terms of the disconnection debate and you have some serious anti-piracy action on a global level.

The widely reported passing of the “three strikes” law in France has emboldened other countries like the United Kingdom to also make a stand. According to David El Sayeh Director General at Syndicat National de l’Edition Phonographique (French version of the BPI) “France is acting as a spearhead. Piracy is not just a French problem, it is a global problem.”.

Further strengthening the call for tough action on file sharers, Jean-Bernard Levy CEO of Vivendi that owns Universal Music Group, Universal Pictures and one of Frances largest ISPs SFR recently stated, “ISPs should be in favour of legislation”. He also went onto state that he did not believe a tough legislative strategy would hurt Internet usage.

Despite all of this aforementioned good news, many critics view the legislation as draconian and state they will be ineffective in curbing file-sharing. Many critics of Net Neutrality or the “three strikes” law quote outdated arguments of “Internet freedom” (so including freedom to steal?) or that it will hinder investment and therefore innovation. One thing history has proved if important issues like this are left to companies the consumer ends up worse off. Why should consumers subsidise illegal file-sharer downloading? As effectively that is what is currently the case.

The fact ISPs (especially in the UK) are not happy with a soon to be legislated law enforcing the “three strikes” principal outlines their own morally bankrupt business principals. Spearheading the UK ISP anti-legislative approach is the UK’s 2nd largest ISP Internet provider Talk Talk with talk (pun intended) of legal action. Andrew Heaney Executive Directory of Strategy at Talk Talk has stated the ISPs believe that the government’s “approach is based on the principal of ‘guilty until proven innocent’ and substitutes proper judicial process for a kangaroo court”.

However, Andrew is being rather disingenuous with his aforementioned statement, in that with digital tracking technology you can ascertain the user’s computer, hence rendering Talk Talk’s talk as rhetoric with no foundation whatsoever. British telecom the UK’s largest ISP has also wadded in stating it “remains concerned”.

TMV has to ask… ‘remains concerned’ about what? The fact BT will now be prevented by law from profiting from enabling illegal file-sharing over its network? Well tough luck! It’s time ISPs started respecting the fact that without content, and content that earns income there is no reason for ISPs ever increasing push to entice consumers to upgrade to even higher broadband speeds. If content producers continue to experience ever-downward income due in part to piracy then they cannot afford to produce new content. If and when that continues to occur there will be no ISP business little own content business left.

TMV’s take on the proposed Net Neutrality debate in the United States and the “three-strikes” law within the EU is that it is increasingly putting ISPs into a corner, and making them realise their responsibilities in relation to users illegally file-sharing over their networks. In our view legislation in this instance is a necessary evil as ISPs had been provided with numerous opportunities to come to the table but flatly refused. The fact is in a digital world, content producers are reliant on digital technology for fast and effective distribution. On the flip side ISPs and Wireless Carriers are reliant on ever more rich media content being produced to enable them to sell ever-increasing broadband and data speeds. Both sectors are tied together for each other’s survival whether they like it or not.

Will this stop piracy once and for all? Of course not. Nothing ever has. Yet the other side to the issue is the problem of non-interoperability between services and hardware devices. This also needs to be rectified in TMV’s via legislative means if necessary.

Other Users Also Read:

German Anti-Piracy Firm Makes Case For Extortion
Three Strikes Not A Done Deal in Europe
PART 2: The Streaming Music Business – Is It Sustainable?


Jakomi Mathews – Founder & Editor, The Music Void

Discussion5 Comments

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