For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Friday, 13 March 2009

IPKat rant over DigiBrit straw man

The IPKat's friend and IP Finance blogging colleague Eva Lehnert (IFPI) spotted this link to Music Week, "Rights Agency consultation opens today", by Robert Ashton. According to its author, the UK Government is inviting views on the role a Digital Rights Agency can play in protecting and promoting the legal use of copyright content online. The piece continues:

"The potential for a Rights Agency was floated by Minister for Technology, Communications and Broadcasting [nothing to do with IP then?], Stephen Carter in his recent Digital Britain report and now the UK Intellectual Property Office will ask how industry, consumer groups and the Government can work together to create an environment where investment in creativity is rewarded [didn't we once have an "environment where investment in creativity is rewarded", ponders the IPKat, "and have we not stifled it through over-regulation of the exercise of IP rights, unfavourable taxation policies and a generally hostile attitude towards anyone with money to invest?"].

The UK IPO is asking creators, commercial rights-holders and consumer groups to respond to a discussion paper exploring the potential benefits of a new agency and the impact it would have in combating unlawful online file-sharing and piracy [is the Agency a wealth-creating think-tank, an enforcement bureau, a padded cell to be shared by competing lobbyists, or what?].

Minister of state for Intellectual Property, David Lammy says, "A properly worked out rights agency could be a real step forward [But there again, it could also be a real step backwards.  Wouldn't it be better to see what's needed first and then ask if an agency will bring it about, rather than create the agency first and wonder what we can find for it to do?]. We can't have a system where even net-surfing 12 year olds have to understand copyright in order to keep themselves and their parents safe within the law [it's almost as bad as a system that expects 12 year olds not to carry knives in the street and refrain from theft and vandalism. Be sure: if you can't stop them, the best thing to do is to legitimise what they do, so at least they and their parents won't feel bad about it].

"The real prize here is a rights agency that sorts out the complexities that keep consumers on the right side of the law [that's easy -- make all copying etc legal], and ensure artists get properly paid [This is the government that is SO CONCERNED about fairness in payment that it did THIS].

"We need to make it easier for consumers to do the right thing. The internet has become an integral part of daily life. You shouldn't need to be an underwriter to take out an insurance policy, and you shouldn't need legal training to surf the web. [Double standards, says the Kat. You have to be pretty skilled and knowledgeable to apply for housing benefit or an attendance allowance - or even to pass the written part of the driving test]"

Carter adds, "In the new digital age, copyright infringement has become easier and more socially acceptable, so it's clear we need some form of legislative backstop for the protection of rights [what is this backstop supposed to stop?] as well as new and innovative ways to access legal content.

"Today we have published proposals in the form of a Straw Man on digital rights. That Straw Man could be torched, tolerated or a touchstone for the start point of constructive debate and design. I for one hope it is the latter."

Key issues raised in the discussion paper include

- How to educate and change consumer behaviour towards copyright material [but didn't we just read that it's copyright that has to change to fit human behaviour, not vice versa?];

- How to support industry efforts in developing new and attractive legal ways for consumers to access content [does the government not consider that, across the free world, such efforts have been made? Can anyone on this planet recall living at a time when more information, music, songs, literature were made available to as many people so easily and for so little cost?];

- How to support legislation to address consumer activity that breaches civil copyright law [er, but there are no votes in doing this ...] and how to tackle persistent infringement [... or this];

- How to enable technical copyright-support solutions that work for both consumers and content creators [when the agency has finished this one, it can tackle that little task of getting the lions to lie down with the lambs ...];

- Whether or not the Agency should be an independent industry body with back-up legal powers held by Ofcom [more jobs for the boys ...]".
The IPKat wonders what comes next. He predicts the renaming of United Kingdom as DigiBrit.

More on Straw Men here

1 comment:

Hugo Cox said...

Should the enraged IPKat paws for thought? Is there a needle in the straw man's stack or wheat in his chaff? Most of the mooted functions of the Digital Rights Agency are not necessary - industry is already looking after them. There is one important point though. The government is planning to introduce legislation relating to P2P and other internet copyright infringement. They would like the legislation to leave the analysis of types of infringement and types of penalty to the Digital Rights Agency. Given the lightning speed of technological development, it does seem sensible that this analysis can develop rather than be fixed. They want the Agency to be funded by business and are here testing the water for willingness to support this idea. Another related function would be to be a test-bed for technical approaches to reducing infringement. I think media industries should definitely consider expressing support for these two functions but none of the others - deadline for responses is 30 March.

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