Doctorow’s response to Digital Britain

Remember Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report? Cory Doctorow has written a response to it over at the Guardian. Some highlights:

On net neutrality:

While the internet has given us VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and unlimited free calling from literally hundreds of providers, non-neutral telecoms have given us per-minute billing with arbitrary, impossible-to-understand tariffs for “long distance” and “peak” calling (when was the last time you worried about sending a “long distance” IM?). The neutral internet is one on which any inventor can deliver any service he or she believes the public wishes – famously, it’s one in which a British physicist could whip up a little document-sharing software, call it the world wide web and slap it online without having to hire a single smarmy salesman to convince a single telephone company to let him do it.


If the objective here is to secure Britain’s digital future, the most important thing we can do with DRM is avoid it. After all, DRM’s most notable effect on the market is to undermine competition by making companies that produce add-ons to popular products liable to lawsuits because they have to break the DRM to do so.

The real irony of the Carter report embracing DRM is that the rest of the world is running away from it, very fast indeed. After all, the mega-game Spore was released by Electronic Arts with the notorious SecuROM DRM, and still went on to be the most pirated game of 2008. The iTunes Store is dumping DRM for music, and Amazon’s DRM-free MP3 store is booming.

Regarding a Broadband Tax:

Rather than trying to stop P2P, it makes good sense to let ISPs opt into paying a collecting society a flat rate to legalize the activities of their users. This is how radio and live performance work – the collecting society takes a fee from the venue or the station, and the public don’t have to worry about individually licensing every song.

Alas, I fear that this isn’t what the Carter report envisions – rather, I suspect that they’re looking to models like the US SoundExchange, who notoriously turn the lion’s share of their fees over to labels instead of artists, and whose licenses are so onerous that they’ve all but killed Internet streaming services.

A licence fee should represent value for money, a breaking of the legal deadlock that has turned the public into criminals.

Doctorow is right that (1) a broadband tax shouldn’t just hand money over to music industry fatcats, and (2) that’s what the government probably envisage. See also my broadband tax proposal.

On the injustice of “3 strikes” laws:

It’s already the case that the internet delivers a free press, free association, free speech, education, health care, employment and many other critical services to the public. It’s outrageous to consider stripping people of this critical resource without a due process – that is, without a trial, a judge, the opportunity to face one’s accuser and hear the evidence against you.

I’d go further than this: it’s unjust even with evidence; cutting someone off from the Internet is too big a punishment. A good analogy is that if someone committed a crime while wlaking along a pavement, they shouldn’t be banned from using any pavement in future.

(via Boing Boing)

This entry was posted in Britain, censorship, computers, digital rights, DRM, economics, filesharing, human rights, MPAA, politics, RIAA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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