Digital Top Stories

U2 manager welcomes US ISP agreement, calls for more ISP action

By | Published on Monday 11 July 2011

Paul McGuinness

U2 manager Paul McGuinness, one of the first music industry figures to publicly criticise the internet service providers for failing to combat online piracy in a Midem keynote in 2008, has welcomed last week’s news that various net providers in the US have entered into a voluntary agreement with the entertainment industry to start sending ‘copyright alerts’ to those who access illegal sources of content. As previously reported, American ISPs have committed to send increasingly terse messages to copyright infringers, with the plan to ultimately instigate albeit undefined technical measures against persistent file-sharers if they ignore the warnings.

In an article for the Sunday Telegraph, McGuiness says that the ISP sector has been way too slow to take on responsibility for policing piracy, noting that it is only now as the film, book and news companies start to face the same threats from online piracy as the music business, and therefore step up their own lobbying efforts, that any net companies are taking action. And while he commends the US ISPs for taking voluntary measures, he reckons new legislation like that introduced in the UK, France and South Korea will be needed to force net companies to act in some other markets.

He adds that stepped up anti-piracy systems to combat illegal free content services are needed now more than ever, because the idea the music industry could “fight free with free” has been disproved. He writes: “For some years ‘fighting free with free’ seemed the answer to all our problems. Today, that honeymoon is over. Spotify, in many countries the champion of the free-to-consumer music streaming service, is now cutting back on its free offering. It is trying to migrate its fans into payers, offering a £10 monthly subscription. That is a huge challenge”. For Spotify et al to succeed, McGuinness argues, the stepped up anti-piracy rules are also needed.

He goes on to call for the European Commission to step in here, forcing ISPs across the European Union to step up their anti-piracy measures in countries where the national government is yet to act. He notes: “The ISP agreement in the US is good news for music and the creative industries. It is time now for action elsewhere. In Europe, Commissioner Barnier is reviewing EU copyright enforcement rules for the digital age. This is a chance for Europe to use its legislative clout to get ISPs to cooperate”.

As previously reported, the UK’s Culture Minister Ed Vaizey last week reaffirmed his commitment to introducing the British take on the three-strikes anti-file-sharing system as described in the Digital Economy Act. He also openly criticised British ISPs BT and TalkTalk for trying to overturn the copyright section of the DEA through the courts.

Although British politicians have talked tough on this issue before, and yet the DEA’s version of three-strikes is yet to go live, there does seem to be a swell of political support for the content industries on the piracy issue again at the moment. Last week in a debate on the Hargreaves Review of intellectual property law, a review instigated in response to criticism of the UK’s current copyright system by Google, while there was some support for reforms proposed by the report, other MPs used the debate to take a swipe at the web giant instead.

According to PC Pro, MP Therese Coffey said: “Dare I say it, but I would like Google, instead of trying to be crusaders for freedom, to work with the creative industries, and with other people such as Microsoft and Apple, to make something like a digital contract exchange work”.

She added: “I note that when one tries to get certain sites taken down or content removed, very high-tech Google does not allow people to actually email it – one has to write to it in California. That seems a bit bizarre”.