German Politician Who Wanted Two-Strike Copyright Law Should Disconnect Himself After Multiple Infringements Found
from the do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do dept
One of the most noticeable trends in copyright law around the world is the way countries tend to adopt similar approaches. So after the “three strikes” law was introduced in France, the UK followed suit, and other nations are at various stages of doing the same. A cynic might almost suggest the whole thing was coordinated somehow.
To be fair, the copying is not always exact. For example, in the US, major ISPs have agreed to a “five/six strikes” plan, depending on how you count. More recently, a German politician called Siegfried Kauder has proposed a “two-strikes” law. After just one accusation from rightsholders, there’s a warning; after two accusations, you’d be disconnected from the Internet for three weeks – without any need for a court order (link to German news story).
But this being the Internet age, a supporter of the German Pirate Party, Alexander Double, decided to check out Kauder’s digital presence. To his amusement, he found several pictures on Kauder’s official web site that seemed to have come from somewhere else. For example, the top right-hand picture on this page uses a picture from Panoramio, but with the EXIF data of the latter stripped out in the former.
After Double raised this issue in a blog post, those pictures were no longer visible on Kauder’s site (the link above goes to an archive copy on the Wayback Machine to show the original state). In explanation, Kauder tried to turn things to his advantage, telling the German magazine Der Spiegel:
“Ich bin denen dankbar, die mir Gelegenheit gegeben haben zu zeigen, dass das Warnmodell funktionieren kann. Ich wurde auf die Verwendung von zwei Lichtbildern auf meiner Homepage aufmerksam gemacht, die urheberrechtlich geschützt sind. Die Fotos sind entfernt. Also: Das Warnmodell funktioniert.”
or, roughly translated:
“I’m grateful to those who have given me the opportunity to show that the warning model can work. I was made aware of two photos on my Homepage that were protected by copyright. The photos have been removed. So the warning model works.”
End of the story, you might have thought: he seems to admit that he shouldn’t have used them but, as he says, the notice he received ensured that they were removed from his site.
But as people continued digging into that site, they found that some of the images were still there on the server, just not visible. Moreover, there were other photos that seemed to have come from elsewhere – for example, the left-hand part of the home page’s banner image looks like it was borrowed from here. As Alexander Double pointed out, that makes two strikes in all: if Kauder’s law had been in force, his Internet connection would be cut off for three weeks, no judge required.
This entertaining saga shows a number of things. That, once more, the politicians most keen to bring in severe laws against copyright infringement – indeed, against just alleged copyright infringement – themselves often break them. And even if this happened by accident, it goes to show just how easy it is for people to break the law without realizing it; and yet that would presumably not be admitted as a defense. It also shows that Kauder’s “warning” system doesn’t work: he was warned, and removed some images, but left others that appear to infringe.
Even Kauder’s colleagues in the pro-copyright CDU are distancing themselves from what are being called “Kauder-Strikes” (with the follow-on scandal about the unauthorized images being dubbed “Kaudergate”). Here’s what the politician Peter Altmaier tweeted:
Kauder-Strikes geht gar nicht: Wer Bücher klaut ist kriminell, aber man nimmt ihm nicht die Lesebrille weg.
Kauder-Strikes are just not on. Someone who steals a book may be a criminal, but we don’t take away their reading glasses.
And yet that is precisely what the “three strike” laws and their variants around the world are trying to do.