Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, has made and interesting but basically flawed speech which touches on P2P filesharing. Here’s the important bit:
My first and most important priority for Digital Europe is: To make it easier and more attractive to access digital content, wherever produced in Europe.
If that’s what you want to do, it’s very easy to achieve, because there’s already a very easy and attractive way to access digital content, it’s called BitTorrent. Therefore the simplest way to enable this goal is to make non-commerical copying of digital content legal.
The availability of attractive content that appeals to European viewers, listeners and readers will be decisive in driving further the take-up of high-speed broadband internet. It is therefore regrettable that we currently have an extremely polarised debate on the matter: While many right holders insist that every unauthorised download from the internet is a violation of intellectual property rights and therefore illegal or even criminal, others stress that access to the internet is a crucial fundamental right. Let me be clear on this: Both sides are right.
Rubbish. Either you have a fundamental right to use the Internet, in which case you can upload and download information from it (which is basically all the Internet does). Or you don’t have such a right, in which case the state, at the behest of the content corporations, can cut off your Internet access if you share files. You can’t have it both ways.
The drama is that after long and often fruitless battles, both camps have now dug themselves in their positions, without any signs of opening from either side.
This is a matter of high principle, on which we shouldn’t compromise.
In the meantime, internet piracy appears to become more and more “sexy”, in particular for the digital natives already, the young generation of intense internet users between 16 and 24. This generation should become the foundation of our digital economy, of new innovation and new growth opportunities. However, Eurostat figures show that 60% of them have downloaded audiovisual content from the internet in the past months without paying. And 28% state that they would not be willing to pay.
Indeed, digital natives see the world differently from people who got their worldview from the Gutenberg Age
These figures reveal the serious deficiencies of the present system. It is necessary to penalise those who are breaking the law. But are there really enough attractive and consumer-friendly legal offers on the market? Does our present legal system for Intellectual Property Rights really live up to the expectations of the internet generation?
Of course not. Which is why the Pirate Party is here.
Have we considered all alternative options to repression?
The main option to repression would be to legalise filesharing. But I’d be interested to hear what Reding thinks are the “alternative options”.
Have we really looked at the issue through the eyes of a 16 year old? Or only from the perspective of law professors who grew up in the Gutenberg Age?
As you point out, 60% of digital natives share files; if you want that to be illegal and punished, then yes you are only seeing it “from the perspective of law professors who grew up in the Gutenberg Age” (I like the term “Gutenberg Age”, BTW).
In my view, growing internet piracy is a vote of no-confidence in existing business models and legal solutions. It should be a wake-up call for policy-makers.
Yes, exactly. So why haven’t you woken up?
If we do not, very quickly, make it easier and more consumer-friendly to access digital content, we could lose a whole generation as supporters of artistic creation and legal use of digital services.
Digital natives aren’t against artistic creation. In fact, they’re mostly for it. What they are against is business models that depend on copies being scarce and hard to create. Those business models worked in the Gutenberg Age. They don’t work in the Digital Age. Best get rid of them, and get rid of outdated laws that prop them up.
As for “legal use of digital services”, I’m all for that — just change the law to make filesharing legal.
Economically, socially, and culturally, this would be a tragedy. It will therefore be my key priority to work, in cooperation with other Commissioners, on a simple, consumer-friendly legal framework for accessing digital content in Europe’s single market, while ensuring at the same time fair remuneration of creators.
Fair remuneration is fine. Just don’t expect that the remuneration will be through scarity-of-copies business models, because it won’t.
Digital Europe can only be built with content creators on board; and with the generation of digital natives as interested users and innovative consumers.
It’s interesting that Reding lists “content creators” first and only later “digital natives”; I think that’s an expression whose desires she most cares about. In the long term, of course, it doesn’t matter, because if Reding and other establishment figures continue to ignore digital natives’ wordview, then digital natives will join the Pirate Party in their millions, and since new future voters will be digital natives, we’ll win.