Here’s some delightful news to wake up to on a gloomy Monday morning.
Minister of State for Enterprise Seán Sherlock is to publish an order early in the new year that is expected to allow music publishers, film producers and other parties to go to court to prevent internet service providers from allowing their customers access to pirate websites. (Irish Times)
It’s being done because of a court case involving record company EMI, where they took out an injunction against the cable company UPC, ordering it to block access to websites that allowed illegal downloading. They failed in their injunction, and now the Irish Government is helping them push it through with supportive legislation.
Let’s think about that for a second. Along with the usual suspects, there are other companies that in their own way, “allow illegal downloading”. They go by the name of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. In other words, the companies that add the most value to the Internet may well be in the firing line. This legislation does not target users or accounts, it goes after whole websites. If the record companies get their way, they have carte blanche to gut the Internet to protect their failed business model.
And here’s another problem. Now, let me make this clear: I’m not into file sharing in any way. I don’t know the first thing about setting up torrents and peer-to-peer networks. It’s not that I have any sense of superiority about it, just because I’m simply not that big into music and movies. Blogs and reading seem to be more my kind of thing. In principle, I’m quite happy to pay the producers for the content that they produce. If they have gone to all that effort to create something of value, I think they should be rewarded for it. But paying companies whose sole purpose in life is to limit distribution through copyright laws? Not so much.
EMI are a dinosaur. They made money when CD’s and DVD’s were in vogue. They are suffering now, because a far more open and efficient system – the Internet – has displaced them. Gutenberg II has arrived and the likes of EMI are trying to burn the pamphlets. Unless they adapt, the EMI’s current business will be dead in ten years. The law might not be dead, though. So, it’s quite feasible that we might have a draconian off-switch on the Internet, whose current use does not match the original intended purpose. How good is that?
Which gets me to my third problem with this. Ireland is a country whose growth prospects depend greatly on its attractiveness towards large and emerging technology companies – companies that have thrived because of Internet freedoms. We have the highest percentage of tech workers in Europe. A huge proportion of our GDP (and consequently, tax revenue) is tied up with the fortunes of the technology and Internet industry. These companies want to do business with governments that understand the dynamics of the Internet. By bowing to the dubious demands of the likes of EMI, our government will be demonstrating, in a very unambiguous way, that they don’t understand it at all. Instead of towing EMI’s line, we should be listening to what the technology companies are saying about this. They seem to be very angered about the US’s SOPA law. Why would it be different here? Do we really have such bad lawyers in this country, that they are not prepared to stand up to the record industry on such a crucial matter?
Dear Sean Sherlock TD, the proposed legislation is bad legislation. You are going to punish legitimate users of the Internet and you playing with the growth prospects of our country, all in an attempt to appease a pack of dinosaurs whose day has come.