The Digital Economy Act, the entertainment industry and acceptable collateral damage
Three things in life are unavoidable: death, taxes and the entertainment industry. Death is not nice. Taxes are unfair. And the entertainment industry is not nice, unfair, and evil. Why? Because in its absurd defence of a failing business model it cares not one jot for either its customers or innocent bystanders. Collateral damage will be an increasing and acceptable by-product for the entertainment industry.
But we can’t blame the entertainment industry alone. Governments pass the laws that it manipulates to its best advantage. And both governments and the wider entertainment industry are just pawns in the struggle for power between Murdoch and the internet (and Google in particular).
In the UK we have a brief breathing space before the Digital Economy Act becomes active. During that period we must take Clegg at his word and tell him forcefully that this is an unnecessary, disproportionate, unfair and unworkable law that we demand be repealed.
Is this really necessary? Yes, it really is necessary. There is a similar law in Ireland. Here the entertainment industry has come to a private agreement with an ISP. I don’t know the details, but the gist is simply that if Eircom (Ireland’s largest ISP) agrees to disconnect users on the say-so of the entertainment industry, the entertainment industry will not force the issue through an expensive court process. In April 2010, Ireland’s High Court ruled that this agreement is legal (see A High Court Ruling on Three Strikes in Ireland).
In May, barely five weeks later,
Eircom, Ireland’s largest ISP, has decided to snuffle up to the entertainment industry’s hindquarters and become the first European ISP to actively practice “3 strikes”: if you are accused (without proof) of three acts of copyright infringement, they will take away Internet access from your entire household for a year.
What this shows is that DE Act’s claim that there will be no disconnection without court order is meaningless. The entertainment industry will merely come to private agreements with the ISPs who will then disconnect users on their say-so but possibly in accordance with the ISP’s own terms of usage. This will happen because the ISPs cannot afford repetitive legal costs against the industry. We have an Act that makes it easy for the entertainment industry to engineer the disconnection of users, while offering no defence to innocent users.
But, I hear the more naive amongst us, the industry is only interested in taking down the guilty. Not so. They don’t care. They are fighting for the future profits of big companies like EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner. A little collateral damage is perfectly acceptable when weighed against profits. Follow the argument through Twitter. First
Notice this last tweet. It draws the connection between DE Act and collateral damage; in this instance Linux Mint:
“With the assistance of the Svea Court of Appeals, the main Hollywood movie studios have landed a triple blow on OpenBitTorrent, The Pirate Bay and site founders Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij. The Court handed out three injunctions yesterday, one of which took the OpenBitTorrent tracker offline.”
OpenBitTorrent is the tracker used by Linux Mint to provide the ISOs via torrent. The consequence of the court decision is that our torrents are currently dead. Of course, our server in Miami and many people within the community are actively sharing the torrents via DHT, so you should still be able to download via torrent even with the tracker being down.
I’m a bit worried about this since there aren’t that many reliable open torrent trackers in the World. This is hurting us and many other projects. Hopefully the tracker will be back up in a few days. If the problem persists we’ll be switching our torrents to use a new tracker or we’ll end up maintaining our own.
Linux Mint blog
So, in pursuing their own profits, the entertainment industry cares not that other innocent people are harmed. Linux Mint is a legal product distributed in a legal manner for legal purposes by innocent people. They’re just in the way.
So it is incumbent on all of us in the UK to demand of Nick Clegg that he keeps his word, hears what we say, and repeals the Digital Economy Act as part of the Coalition’s Reform Bill.