Labels & Publishers Legal Top Stories

Lots of people talk about file-sharing – cut em off or sue em?

By | Published on Thursday 7 October 2010

America’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator – or Copyright Czar as she is often dubbed – Victoria Espinel, did a spot at the Future Of Music Policy Summit in Washington earlier this week and, according to the Chicago Tribune, confirmed that work was already underway in US government circles to persuade internet service providers Stateside to play a more proactive role in policing piracy. She didn’t talk about three-strikes, but it’s what she meant.

As previously reported, Espinel published a 33 point plan for protecting intellectual property in the digital age back in June, at a press conference where US Vice President Joe Biden said “piracy is theft, clean and simple – it’s smash and grab, it ain’t no different than smashing a window at Tiffany’s”. Of all the things mentioned in her original document, she honed in on three at the Washington music conference this week: pressurising ISPs to act; new measures to block websites that infringe, especially those based outside the US; and a review of American copyright law.

All of which, really, mirrors efforts in Europe and elsewhere regards combating piracy – in particular in the UK where the two main copyright components of the Digital Economy Act were three-strikes and injunctions to block copyright infringing websites (though the latter was considerably watered down before the Act became law). Although being clear on her priorities, Espinel didn’t give much indication as to how they things will be specifically achieved, nor as to whether the American ISPs were responding well to suggestions they should step up their anti-piracy efforts. I suspect they’re not keen. ISPs elsewhere haven’t been.

Talking of ISPs elsewhere, in similar news the boss of Warner Music Europe, the man they call Johnny Reid, and a certain Sharon “of the Corrs” Corr were also talking three-strikes this week, this time at The Music Show in Dublin. As you may recall, three-strikes is already underway in Ireland, but with only one internet service provider – albeit the biggest, Eircom – on board. This is because the three-strikes system was agreed between the record labels and Eircom direct as part of a settlement agreement to a civil copyright action, and was not instigated by a change in the law.

According to Hot Press, Reid told the conference that the Irish three-strikes system needed to be expanded to include other ISPs, probably through new laws. Corr, meanwhile, was even more frank, declaring “A Digital Economy Act needs to be brought in to Ireland. Legislation needs to be put through and implemented”. Backing up the call for government action, Reid stressed just how badly the Irish record industry was doing, telling the conference: “The whole value chain is at risk [from piracy]. The Irish business is down 50% in the past five years and it will take another year or two [to bottom out]”.

Of course, moves to force the ISPs to suspend or disconnect persistent file-sharers are based on a theory held by many, though not all, in the music biz that suing fans directly – as current copyright laws allow – is inefficient. Though a certain Gene Simmons reckons the US record industry’s attempt to sue file-sharing out of existence failed not because it was a flawed approach, but because they just didn’t sue enough people.

Speaking at yet another conference, this time MIPCOM in Cannes, the Kiss man said: “Make sure your brand is protected. Make sure there are no incursions. Be litigious. Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars. Don’t let anybody cross that line”. On the record industry’s current woes, he continued: “The music industry was asleep at the wheel and didn’t have the balls to sue every fresh-faced, freckle-faced college kid who downloaded material. And so now we’re left with hundreds of thousands of people without jobs. There’s no industry”.

So take note Reid, Corr and Espinel. What you really should be doing is suing every single person on the planet. Well, if nothing else, it would be kinda funny.

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