us that representatives of copyright holders will complain
about any new development in information or communication technology and try to stop or limit
its use. Well, it is no surprise then that, over in the UK, the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) is claiming
that existing, already far-reaching copyright enforcement measures in the not-yet implemented Digital Economy Act
(DEA) will be rendered useless when the new 4G mobile phone network rolls out. The 4G mobile phone networks
has been anticipated with much fanfare
and will provide mobile broadband speeds, which are many times faster than the 3G network we have become used to in the UK. According to FAST, mobile users and operators now also need to fall within the scope of the controversial DEA.
In a recent Techdirt post
about the DEA, Glyn Moody finished with the sentence "The longer the great Digital Economy Act farce drags on, the more absurd it becomes from every viewpoint
." With FAST's claims, the debate is set to continue, and yes, it will become more absurd. Here's a short recap of DEA before we see how history repeats itself when its lessons are ignored:
The DEA was hastily passed at the end of the last UK Parliament's term to "combat piracy", or whichever rhetoric was used this time.
The act initially proposed to block websites and disconnect repeat infringers of copyright in a graduated response type system, or otherwise limit internet access. Customers may also be taken to court because ISP's would be obliged to disclose personal information of their customers.
The scope is limited to the largest ISP's in the UK, which covers about 93% of its citizens.
The implementation of the DEA has been delayed due to heavy criticism. Some of these ISP's went to court about the hefty costs which need to be made to enforce copyrights online.
Some provisions, such as the blocking of websites at the ISP level, have since been scrapped. This was not met with much resistance from rights holders, as they already had their Supreme Court precedent set with the blocking of the Pirate Bay.
More specifics about this piece of legislation can be found around the internet, but as a final point it must be mentioned that -- surprise surprise -- the whole impact assessment of the act was based on highly inflated and controversial figures with bogus methodologies, provided by private stakeholders.
Let's dive into the claims of this most recent attempt to attack the technology as legacy players try to stay relevant. Of course, every time they do this, they discover that they're on the wrong side of innovation. Again. And, all too often, the goals of these groups run entirely contrary to the real wishes of those they claim to represent. Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Council at FAST, states the following:
The DEA has the potential to be a valuable piece of legislation in the fight against illicit peer-to-peer copyright infringement and a significant development for rights holders as an educational programme. However, the DEA must remain timely. The issue is that by the time the DEA is finally implemented, technology could have moved on so far making the Act ineffective in helping to deal with those using 4G networks to share files. In its current form the DEA is not sufficiently flexible in scope to account for advances in technology.
Another representative, Jonathan Cornthwaite, a lawyer in London and member of FAST's Legal Advisory Group, then goes on to state:
[...] As we are now witnessing, technology does not stand still and gaps are appearing in the DEA as the use of mobile devices accelerates. Unless this situation can be remedied, it may be of less assistance, leaving rights holders with a watered down remedy.
It is fascinating to see these representatives finally realizing that regulation will not be able to keep apace with technological developments, where innovation happens at internet speed
. They are right in stating that legislation must be flexible to stay timely and to move with technological and societal advances, which are indeed moving at an unprecedented pace.
However, they fail to think through that it may not be the enforcement side, but actually that the copyright system lacks social legitimacy because it is out of date and out of touch with how we now live in media
. The approach chosen by these representatives leans more towards a permission innovation society as identified by Mike in a recent post
, where former Register of Copyrights, Ralph Oman, expressed that he feels any new technology should have to apply to Congress for approval, before it is allowed to exist. Instead, we should follow the sensible part of Mr. Heathcote Hobbins and Mr. Cornthwaite's analysis and make the underlying copyright system timely and flexible so it takes into account technical reality, which, indeed, does not stand still.
A group of UK mobile operators have branded their 4G service "Everything, Everywhere
" (EE), indicating they understand what consumers want: all media available at any time in any place. This does not directly mean consumers want media for free. Most are willing to pay for access, especially when the service purchased offers them the ability to use works without undue restrictions. A line can be drawn as to which uses are permissible and which are not. However, if restrictions inhibit normal media usage as consumers expect it, and penalties include disconnection, throttling or otherwise limiting the promise of the super-fast paced mobile internet experience, copyright will further lose social legitimacy and work-arounds
will be found.
France's graduated response scheme -- HADOPI -- has already failed miserably
, thereby proving the critics right that such a scheme is not workable nor desirable with regards to media sharing on the internet. Why then push for a very similar DEA anyway? Give it another go in a new country, hoping for different results? Apply it to new technology and hope the criticism will go away? To quote Einstein: "Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results