in which I attend the launch of ‘A Copyright Masquerade’

Monica Horten has a new book, and I went over to the LSE to attend a panel session entitled “Copyright and Freedoms in a Digital Europe: Liability of Intermediaries” to launch it, or boost it. The book’s called A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms. The panel was chaired by Anne Barron of the LSE , and was attended by Jeff Taylor (BPI), Nick Lansman (ISPA).

Lansman in his speech stated that the line between a carrier and a publisher is weakening. This is important because carriers are protected against liability while publishers are eventually liable for their content. Examples of weakening include the ISP’s implementing the IWF block lists, and the growing judicial prohibitions via the Copyright Designs and Patents Act. More recently we have seen Cameron’s porn filters and a cross bench concern about the pornification of society; politicians need to be seen to be doing something.

Taylor from the BPI is a suave and polished operator. He sounds so reasonable, but at the end of the day, they want everything for ever. He explained that they use judicial blocking for non-P2P sites and they join the swarm for P2P. They target sites where they can be found and consumers where they can’t, although the ACS Law precedents don’t auger well if they decide to recommence their pursuit of fans. He also stated that they were in conversation with Google who despite removing millions of links per month, are not doing enough to restrict access to infringing content.

Monica Horten in her contribution asked why the BPI didn’t sue Google if they believe that linking is making available; they want agreement because they can’t afford to go to court and they hope to scare Google into over reach. How you provide a search engine which doesn’t give the results desired is a an interesting one. I reflected on the view that Google is one click from failure two years ago. However, if your view that all infringing use of copyright material is a crime, then the same measures one uses to pursue the worst of crimes, child porn and terrorism should be applied. However, much copyright infringement is a civil offence, but pursuit is too expensive, especially if there are no punitive or exemplary damages. It became legal to format shift and backup digital content this month, but people have been doing this ever since the IT equipment became available. One of the problems faced by the copyright maximalists is that the lunatic and more restrictive end of the behavioural spectrum they require has no consent. It doesn’t matter what laws they get passed; it won’t stop people sharing or using their content as they see fit. This point of view is re-inforced by the number of hostile questions asked of Jeff Taylor.

The penultimate question was posed by Felip Romero Moreno who asked if the technology used by the BPI’s search agents to monitor bit torrent swarms was legal, arguing that the Police would probably be unable to get a RIPA warrant to monitor the swarms in the way that the BPI does and that it almost certainly contravenes European and British Data Protection laws.

I asked about consent in the light of the fact that copyright is indefinite for all real purposes since we’ll all be dead by the time today’s content becomes freely available. I have spoken better.

As with all great meetings we adjourned to a bar and I spoke to Anne Barron who pointed me at her paper ‘Free software production as critical social practice’ which talks about the proposition that Facebook Users are the new proletarians. (I haven’t read it yet, but it builds on the theories around the value and earnings of free software, I need to see how far it goes in examining the value offered by ‘eyeballs’ and the ability to earn reward and thus the 21st century alienation.)

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