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If Piracy Laws Cut Internet Traffic – Do ISPs Share Liability For Music Piracy?


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As reported last week Sweden introduced new anti-piracy laws in terms of ISPs providing details of users sharing files and the countries overall internet traffic. Since the introduction of the new laws internet traffic in that country has fallen by 33%. TMV decided to drill down and examine whether there can be a direct correlation between the drop off of web traffic and illegal file sharing.

The new law in Sweden was named IPRED and is based on the European Union’s Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive. Essentially this new legal framework allows copyright holders to obtain a court order forcing ISPs to provide IP addresses, which identify what users have been sharing copyrighted content.

ISPs have always denied any responsibility for the manner in which users of their bandwidth chose to utilise their broadband subscriptions. However, surely providing a service to consumers that enables them to “steal” copyrighted material and declaring you do not have a responsibility to prevent this illegal activity is wrong? In TMVs view this is the same as saying we will sell you a gun without any restrictions and if you use it to kill someone, we have no responsibility whatsoever…what I’m getting at here is that all citizens and companies alike share responsibilities so we can all live in a civil society.

ISPs and supporters of their business will no doubt be-wanting to scream at me. But hey providing and selling tools that only ISPs have the ability to regulate and police – to then denying responsibility for misuse is tantamount to ignorance and ignorance is not a defense in any democratic court within a civil society.

Looking at it another way, the ever-increasing sales pitches from ISPs about increased bandwidth advantages, ignores one basic FACT. Without rich media content (Music, Film, Games etc.), consumers would have no need for increasing bandwidth – which the ISP business depends on for growth and profits. Instead, we could all be content with 56K dialup connections where no consumption of rich media is viable. If your network as an ISP is being used to illegally trade and share copyrighted rich content files as an ISP you do have responsibility to do everything in your capability to prevent this illegal activity.

Interestingly, according to an article on the BBC website (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7978853.stm), Kjell Bohlund, chair of the Swedish Publishers Association, stated “”In a study, 80% of people thought we shouldn’t go after file-sharers. But ask them how they feel about taking money out of the pockets of musicians, authors or artists and that number falls by a significant amount.” What does this signify for the music business? Well firstly that we need to educate music fans/consumers alike about the detrimental impact file sharing has on artists actually getting recompensed for their art.

Drilling down, there is a bit of the chicken and egg scenario and whilst an ISP may not be directly responsible for the fact that their network has paying subscribers breaking the law in relation to copyrighted material. Whether ISPs like it or not they then become an accessory to that crime. I’m sure if music companies worked out how to allow subscribers to hack in and use ISPs broadband networks without paying monthly subscriber fees, ISPs would see that as a crime and would expect the music business to stop its artist fans breaking the law in terms of “stealing” access to broadband networks?

From another angle surely there is a purely commercial reason for ISPs to internally police their own networks? If in one territory a new anti-piracy law can result in a direct drop in internet traffic of one third – there is obviously an undeniable trend that ISPs are being utilized for illegal activity. ISPs in commercial terms should have a business interest in controlling file sharing because it uses up so much of their bandwidth that could otherwise be utilized to sell to new consumers or also bring greater economies of scale.

The only reason TMV can think of in terms of ISPs not wanting to restrict the facilitation of “theft” is that it is in their own interests to be selling us more expense “new” higher bandwidth broadband plans. Now both content owners and ISPs do need to meet somewhere in the middle and both sides need to be active in the pursuit of illegal file sharers. TMV is very clear that there must be a consensus that we do not go and chase small time individuals that instead we pursue the large and consistent offenders, who ignore warnings to stop their behavior.





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