25 May 2011

Copyright Cops EU Proposal

Michael Barnier of the Internal Market Commission has called for copyright infringements to be prevented 'at source'. Any proposals involving ISP's as an authority against intellectual property rights does not sit well with me. Similar ideas have been implemented via the Digital Economy Act in the UK and while the concept of the idea is understandable the practicalities of it are questionable. Should boot sale/music fair organisers be forced to police what is being sold at the stalls? Should charity shops refuse to accept books or CD's (because to re-sell them is breaching copyright)? Should Royal Mail/couriers be held liable for counterfeit goods being posted in the mail?

ISP's are providers of a service, they should not be legislatively charged with the burden of ensuring that all information transferred is of a legitimate nature. Progressive steps towards 'Internet Police' would be better placed with the correct authorities such as Trading Standards, the Police or another newly appointed body to ensure not only impartiality but correct and proper procedures for determining illegitimate use.

Idealistically, the concept that Internet Service Providers can police what is transmitted will work in a similar fashion to Youtube copyright infringments, whereby the copyright holder can inform them of any breaches. The volume of information which is being passed on the internet however could potentially open a massive can of worms.

Say I had a gallery of publically available pictures online, with no owner information provided - just pictures. Imagine a handful of people decided to use those pictures because not only were the pictures available to the public but the owner unidentifiable. The reasonable person would not assume that those handful of people had done anything drastically wrong. What is to stop me, the owner, then coming out of the shadows once the pictures had been copied and suing for copyright infringement while simultaneously contacted the 'copyright cops' (ISP's) to ask them to deal with the matter.

How many hundreds of people could claim copyright infringement when there is no actual monetary loss through the sharing of such material? How much strain would that put on the ISP as the police? Is it right that they are being held responsible for the information which is transferred amongst internet users?

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