Monday, April 26, 2010

Digital Economy Act 2010 - switch off the Pirates


The UK Digital Economy Act 2010 was rushed through this month in an attempt to start the process of protecting copyright owners from digital piracy. An attempt has been made to create a process under which copyright owners can complain to an ISP about infringment, that ISP is then obliged to notify potentially offending subscribers and if offenders continue to persist they may have their internet connections terminated. ISP's are also required to release the identity of the offenders to the copyright owners. Before this all really happens OFCOM need to do a full review for the Secretary of State and pirates internet connections are therefore unlikely to be terminated before early 2012.

Nick Clegg and others have already suggested that the Act needs to be reviewed and there is doubtless much lobbying from the ISP's who don't fancy the role of gatekeeper.......well at least in the context of Digital Piracy. Some commentators advocate the use of ever more complex DRM - as this blog has commented before these solutions do not work against the hard core pirates and once they have a single illegal copy they can distribute at will.

Regardless of the flaws in the legislation this does represent a step in the right direction as the Pirates have been having a great time of it using free services such as JustinTV and U Stream to generate income from stolen material and making it very tough indeed for commercial services to operate. This in turn has led to rights holders not releasing content online which creates a vicious circle.

There is legislation already such as article 8 of the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty which can be used but so far only the largest media organisations have really taken the Pirates through the Courts with mixed success.

This legislation is to be supported in its intention as without a reasonably solid framework for the ownership of intellectual property creative industries will not be able to generate a return for their investors and this will lead to the destruction of large sections of our creative industries. Some luddites point to a lack of "proof" that Pirated content does damage - a quick look as Justin TV on Saturday night for the Carl Froch v Michael Kessler fight shows the obvious truth that when you can watch for free you would not pay for the legal commercial paid for service.

This destroys the economics of the industry so an attempt to assist the copyright owners is to be applauded.