Government To Block Sharing Sites, But Music Biz Must Cut Prices

As the phenomena of blocking file-sharing sites continues to spread around the world, the government of Indonesia is tackling the issue from two directions. Alongside an announcement confirming that ISP blocks will be put in place against some of the most popular file-hosting services, record labels are also being told they need to reduce prices in order to deter piracy.

In the United States, United Kingdom and parts of Europe, there is an increasing momentum from the copyright lobby in favor of legislation which allows for the blocking of file-sharing sites at the ISP level.

Where new laws prove politically dangerous, the big entertainment companies are seeking voluntary agreements with ISPs to achieve the same end result.

In the regions mentioned above these developments have been expected for some time, but in recent months this phenomenon has been spreading to countries not historically associated with an aggressive anti-piracy stance. Following Malaysia and India, now comes Indonesia.

Two years ago Indonesia was placed on a priority watch list for failing to protect US intellectual property rights. At the end of last month the government warned that it was preparing a response to music piracy online. Yesterday, Minister of Communications and Information Tifatul Sembiring confirmed what that response would be.

“The plan is to block famous sites, like 4shared for example,” the minister announced.

4shared is a popular file-hosting cyberlocker service. According to its operators Indonesia is its 3rd most-popular region after United States and Brazil. Malaysia, where it has thus far managed to stay unblocked, takes 4th spot. 4shared also remains uncensored in Google’s auto-complete feature.

In a 27th July announcement the Ministry of Communications and Information said the music industry would compile a list of sites “offering illegal content that need to be blocked”. So far the majority are local services.

Indonesia began blocking pornographic content on the Internet last year and it now appears those same systems will be used to censor file-hosting services such as 4shared.

Local operators who breach copyright law face sanctions under the 2002 Law on Copyrights and the 2008 Law on Information and Electronic Transactions. Punishments range from a $115 fine to a jail sentence of up to 9 years.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country with close to 240 million citizens and the government has been touting some equally large music piracy stats – 240 million songs downloaded per day. Although that sounds like one song per citizen per day, only 45 million Indonesians have Internet access, which means in this scenario they each have to download 5 to 6 tracks each per day.

As always, the stats are recoding industry supplied and impossible to confirm but they say the above is costing them $1.4 billion per year.

While it is taking action against sites, the government has also indicated that it wants the music industry to do more to encourage people to buy legitimate products. Among the suggestions are labels cutting the price they charge for music and making it easier for customers to pay for content, such as via their mobile phone bills.

Another interesting suggestion is for the labels, ISPs and file-hosting sites to team up and sell music to customers. Let’s hope they don’t try that after they’ve blocked the sites at the ISP level.

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