Targeting Copyright Infringers, But Hitting The Digital Economy
from the it's-time-to-stop-the-madness dept
Michael Scott points us to a short article/paper with the perfect title:Aiming at Copyright Infringers and Hitting the Digital Economy by William Dutton from Oxford. The key point, as you might imagine, is in challenging the various attempts at ratcheting up copyright enforcement around the globe in the mistaken belief that it’ll actually slow down infringement. Like many other reports, he points to research that suggests that such laws do not have the intended effect at all. But the bigger issue is how this quixotic focus on ratcheting up enforcement has very serious costs to the rest of the economy:
Secondly, and most significantly, the measure could have unintended negative consequences for the vitality of the Internet — the network of technologies, practices and people that are key to the digital economy. The Internet is not built on a house of cards, but it is nested in an ecology of policies and practices that make it difficult for legislators to change one key element and not have repercussions throughout the larger ecology (Dutton et al 2010).
Specifically, the strategy of copyright defenders could indirect consequences on freedom of expression and access to the Internet. This stems from the copyright protection measures placing the communication regulator into the position of creating mechanisms to monitor users in order to identify those violating restrictions on unlawful file sharing. Governments are moving from a position of not regulating Internet content, to assuming responsibilities for Internet content regulation. They are passing these responsibilities on to regulators, to pass these responsibilities on to the ISPs, who then are able to bring violators to the attention of the regulatory authority. By putting ISPs into the role of monitoring users and disconnecting repeated offenders, the initiatives change the role of the ISP — moving it towards a more traditional communication intermediary, such as a broadcaster, rather than the provider of an end-to-end network.
A number of governments have been regulating Internet content via the ISPs. China has used this approach, for example, to monitor chat rooms and forums. However, once ISPs are put in the position of monitoring and potentially regulating Internet content, by either blocking content or disconnecting users, they become editors, and therefore open to many of the same legal instruments as other edited media, such as the press. This can subject ISPs to even greater risks, such as from being held responsible for defamation. In such ways, as governments push ISPs into a new role as intermediaries, they are on a slippery slope that could have a chilling effect on both ISPs and Internet users.
Of course, plenty of people have been pointing this out for years, but I’m always glad to see more people recognizing these key points.