Pirates, criminals or would-be honest consumers?

The SCL has published 11 articles arising from its forum entitled ‘Legislating for Web 2.0 – Preparing for the Communications Act?’. I was rather taken with Andrew Adams and Ian Brown’s presentation on the futility of seeking technological solutions to enforcing copyright, entitled Keep Looking: The Answer to the Machine is Elsewhere, from which:

On keeping honest users honest

As Ed Felten of Princeton University retorted: ‘Nothing needs to be done to keep honest people honest, just as nothing needs to be done to keep tall people tall.’…

If DRM systems simply informed users of their rights in respect of copyright works, they would be trivial to implement and uncontroversial. However, by seeking to use TPMs to enforce these restrictions, most DRM systems have turned honest users dishonest.

On competing with free:

It is unsurprising that the creative destruction of capitalism has operated in the music industry as elsewhere to radically reshape products in the face of new technology and changing consumer preferences. Attempts to use copyright law to preserve 20th century business models in the face of disruptive new technologies, including the personal computer and the Internet, are not sustainable in the long term.

On music “piracy”:

The recording industry has spent much of the last two decades attempting to equate the unauthorised sharing of music with piracy. The downloading of music as an activity has little in common with 17th-century armed robbery on the high seas. Nor does it compare with the violent and often murderous raids on modern container ships.

Nor, of course, is it “theft”.

And on the answer to the machine being in the machine:

It is difficult to see how media players could take account of all of the circumstances of the use of a work that would be considered by the courts. … While artificial intelligence systems have made great advances over the last few decades, they are yet to match the interpretive skill of the US Supreme Court or European Court of Justice.

Singing from much the same hymn sheet it seems, at the SCL Annual Lecture in March, will be William Patry, Senior Copyright Counsel at Google, who will speak on Crafting an Effective Copyright Law. He will also address what has been called “market myopia”: the failure of copyright owners to focus on consumers, why historically they are concerned with control instead and why this has frequently led them to be anti-innovation.