WIPO Director General Against Draconian Anti-Piracy Punishment… But For The Wrong Reasons
from the not-quite-there-yet dept
We were a bit surprised, recently, to hear at a WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) meeting that they actually appeared to be taking more of an evidence-based approach to copyright, rather than just assuming that “more is better.” And now, the Director General of WIPO, Francis Gurry, gave an interview where he explained why he thought that high fines and jailtime weren’t the answer to piracy. He’s exactly right, which is a bit surprising. But as you read the details, it sounds like he might be right for the wrong reasons — which isn’t all that surprising.
It’s not that he thinks that the better approach is for companies and content creators to adjust their business models — but that he’s afraid the draconian punishment schemes are basically a PR nightmare for WIPO’s continuing fruitless effort to convince people that infringement is evil:
“I don’t believe we are going to win this, (to) find the solution by putting teenagers in jail,” Gurry said in an interview on a visit to India. “I think that is not going to win public sympathy.”
“Part of the battle here is to sensitise the public to the fact that there is a real issue involved. It is not simply a victimless crime….”
Amusingly, the whole reason the RIAA kicked off its lawsuit strategy was based on similar thinking: that it was an “education” campaign that would convince people that there was “harm” done from file sharing. Of course, it didn’t work. At all. And no education campaign is going to work, because it’s just the basic nature of economics. If the technology has made the product infinite, it’s not a moral issue or a legal issue: it’s a business model issue. The answer is to change business models, not hope and pray that you can somehow convince people that it’s “bad” to do something that obviously can be done quite easily.
So, yes, Gurry is correct that draconian punishment has created a massive PR backlash that has helped make things even worse, but an education campaign isn’t going to make a difference. Only a business model change can fix a business model situation — and we’re already seeing that happen just fine in many parts of the world. It’s not an education campaign that will help the content industry. It’s smarter business models.