File-Sharers Safe Until Music Biz Change Laws

After failing in their case against The Pirate Bay, a music copyrights group has announced it will give up trying to get sites blocked and will leave file-sharers alone. Not forever though. They will instead put all their efforts into getting the law changed. The IFPI said yesterday that it wants to bring this same strategy to your country soon.

The last decade has thrown up a number of complex David and Goliath-style copyright battles between large corporations and various file-sharing sites, services and individuals.

Largely the effort has been to convince the courts that current laws are applicable to the cases in question, from the shutting down of Napster in 2001 through to the most recent criminal case in Sweden involving The Pirate Bay. The utilization of existing law brings quicker results, but only in the short term and at significant expense.

New laws, created and based on the desires of the music industry, are a much better solution for them in the longer term, providing faster routes to site closures and more cost-effective solutions to deal with individuals.

With this in mind, lobbying by the music and movie industries has continued apace, even in countries where existing law still yields results.

For example, in the UK existing copyright law was used effectively against Usenet-indexer Newzbin recently, and it is used regularly to reveal the identities of tens of thousands of alleged file-sharers so they can be pursued for settlements. But why spend millions suing sites or individuals out of existence (along with all the bad publicity that brings) when one can get the government to block them at hugely reduced cost?

One only has to look at the UK’s Digital Economy Bill for a clear example where lobbying has been used to massively cut the cost and possibly even the need for future litigation. Don’t like a site like Newzbin in the future? Forget costly injunctions. Write a couple of letters to the right people and it’ll be blocked. Don’t like The Pirate Bay or Rapidshare? Same applies.

Sometimes, however, current law simply isn’t up to the requirements of the mainstream entertainment industries at all and yields zero results.

The IFPI and music rights outfit TONO discovered this recently after their second attempt at forcing the ISP Telenor to block The Pirate Bay ended in failure. They could have taken the case on to the Supreme Court but clearly they know the law isn’t on their side and have announced they have given up on the current legal action.

“We have no plans to try more file sharing cases in court before we are confident that we have a basis in Norwegian law,” said TONO’s Cato Power this week.

TONO haven’t given up on lobbying though. If the law is no good, they say, it’s time to get it changed, and that could be soon.

Norway’s Ministry of Culture is gathering together a group including the Norwegian Publishers Association, the Consumer Council, Gramo (music rights group), and ISPs Telenor and NextGenTel. Their job will be to provide solutions to restrict illicit file-sharing and encourage an increased usage of legal services by June 1st 2010.

Of course, TONO will take the opportunity to champion a 3 strikes-style solution similar to that present in the heavily lobbied-for Hadopi law currently lying in wait in France, or the newly-passed Digital Economy Bill in the UK.

Furthermore, all the signs are that in the coming years the music industry will maintain its aggressive lobbying until it gets this type of mechanism implemented in all its major markets.

“The passing of the Digital Economy Act in the UK recognises that if a country is to have world-class creative industries, then it also needs laws that will effectively protect their rights from the crippling problem of digital piracy,” said IFPI chairman John Kennedy yesterday.

“The move by the UK creates momentum for the graduated response approach to tackling piracy internationally,” he noted, adding, “We hope this will prompt more focus and urgency for similar measures in other countries where debate is underway.”

For those readers who are still unsure what “similar measures” are – site blocking, warning letters sent to file-sharers and if they don’t work, Internet disconnections. New laws coming to you soon.

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