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British ISPs Fail To Defeat Digital Economy Act 184

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-the-music dept.
judgecorp writes "ISPs objecting to the British government's Digital Economy Act have lost a court challenge which argued the Act breaches fundamental rights. There's still room to appeal, but it looks like alleged file sharers will be getting warning letters next year."
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British ISPs Fail To Defeat Digital Economy Act

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  • I admit, I've been living under a rock, but what is this Digital Economy Act?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2011 @01:14AM (#35889946)

      It's something that returns a bunch of results when you type it into a search engine. You should try it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      Rather than wade through several google results and a detailed but verbose article, I'll actually answer your question. After all, others might wish to know as well.

      The Digital Economy Act was a piece of legislation rushed through at the end of the last parliament just before the election. It's common to do a sort of tidy-up before an election usually this is with the less controversial bills.

      The act requires ISPs to send warning letters to infringers and may be used to force ISPs to disconnect the
      • The act requires ISPs to send warning letters to infringers and may be used to force ISPs to disconnect the service for repeat infringers. This is seen as placing too heavy a burdn on the ISPs and somewhat draconian against accused file sharers, especially because they may not actually be guilty of any wrongdoing.

        It should be pointed out also that ISPs don't send these warning letters and disconnect people on the behest of a court decision, they are required to do these acts simply on the say-so of a copyright holder who is alleging (without proving) that a customer of the ISP is infringing their copyright. There also appears to be no process for the affected customer to appeal the decision.

        I'm all for enforcing the law, but doing so without involving the courts is unacceptable - this is similar to someone being lo

  • Race to the bottom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pieterh (196118) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @12:35AM (#35889676) Homepage

    And as the world flattened, and the West lost its historical advantages over the rest of the world, one hope remained. The Internet. Anglophone, agile, it offered a future where the talent and skills of Europe and America could earn their keep in a world starving for digital products. Sure, export all your industrial capacity to Asia. But they'll be importing their digital services from the West. Win-win.

    Except it didn't happen like that. Patents and copyright, originally designed to protect the rights of a few, spread like cancer in the new digital economy. The "rights holders" and their lawyers wielded disproportionate influence over politicians. The newer digital businesses, though larger, didn't focus exclusively on control, lobbying, political influence, and protectionism.

    One by one, the startups failed. The cost and risk of doing business was just too high. The Internet, once a lawyer-free zone, became the hunting ground for a new breed of legal parasite that used Google to search its prey. Society itself, which in the 21st century found itself heavily digitised, became captive to the "rights owners" and their lawyers.

    One by one the digital businesses forced themselves to become involved in politics. It was only in 2024 in Europe, and a full decade later in the USA that the first pro-digital political parties took control of major power blocks. In the 21st century, there was no left, no right. There was only forwards, and backwards.

    • by pieterh (196118) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @12:48AM (#35889774) Homepage

      Note: I really do believe that copyright is as bad as patents. Yes, I release all my software under the GPLv3, which depends entirely on copyright law, but it's a hack. In the ideal digital world, sharing of culture would not be optional. Areas of industry without copyright-like protection - like fashion - are hugely successful. Copyright is a 15th century concept designed to stop the free sharing of information. Copyright originated as censorship.

      To those who will argue, inevitably, that without patent and copyright, people will not produce, kindly either look at history, or the real world. Competing through production is not an option. It takes a Soviet-style destruction of private property to dissuade us to produce. In every study, the more law tries to encourage "innovation" by privatising our culture, the less we produce. This would be obvious to the advocates for such privatisation if they actually produced anything of value, ever, in their own lives.

      Culture and ideas and technology and works of art are "private property" only in the warped mindset of an intellectual property lawyer. I challenge that advocate to invent his own alphabet and language, build his own Internet and browser, and come back when his ability to speak nonsense is not entirely dependent on the culture freely shared by others.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dgatwood (11270)

        I disagree, not because people will not produce, but because without copyright, there will be nothing to produce that has any inherent value other than food. Everything else can always be made by somebody else cheaper, and to some extent, even food can....

        The problem is not that patents and copyright are inherently bad. The problem is that copyright should be 14 years with the option to extend for another 14. After you've created something, you should be able to make money on it for a limited period of t

        • by syousef (465911) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @01:23AM (#35889988) Journal

          The problem is that copyright should be 14 years with the option to extend for another 14. After you've created something, you should be able to make money on it for a limited period of time, and then it should go into the public domain while people still care about it enough to preserve it. And patent duration should depend on the field. For slow-moving fields, it might be twenty years. For high-tech fields, it should be more like three. And for individual inventors working independently, the duration should be longer than for patents-for-hire.

          You are essentially arguing that we should be stifling innovation, just more slowly. That is nonsense and doesn't fly. Copyright is an outdated mechanism. A new one is needed that compensates the creator without allowing the creator control or limitation. In the simplest instance you should be able to "sue for your cut". Even that has it's problems but it's a better compromise than limiting usage of a creation.

          • You are essentially arguing that we should be stifling innovation, just more slowly. That is nonsense and doesn't fly.

            No, he clearly argues that a shorter copyright is better than both what we have now and nothing at all. You misstated his argument.

        • by pieterh (196118) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @01:38AM (#35890066) Homepage

          You seem to be claiming that copyright is the basis for a successful economy. You also seem to believe that society has an obligation to feed its artists, musicians, computer programmers, and actors. Lastly, and most amusingly, you seem to claim that the copyright system currently reward these groups, rather than, for example, executives, lawyers, marketing directors, and CEOs.

          Firstly, economies work (or fail) on the basis of specialization and trade. This is a basic mechanism, like natural and sexual selection are basic mechanisms for evolution. Economies depend on people dividing up larger problems into smaller ones, and trading solutions. You make bread, I'll make beer, we'll trade. Money of course allows abstraction of this trade, and consequent scaling. Copyright plays no roles in this system except to limit its efficiency, and create friction. There is no benefit to society in individuals or groups owning any part of the culture needed. It is in fact the opposite.

          Second, and I'm a computer programmer, but nonetheless: society has no obligation to feed any particular sector except those who cannot look after themselves. Artists, musicians, programmers, writers, and those who would fashion bushes into amusing topiary choose their professions, and do not merit special treatment. The Netherlands tried this. It did, and still does, pay registered artists to produce works. The result is wharehouses filled with junk art. The fact here is that not only do creative people merit no special treatment, but they actually only create valuable works when they are hungry and fairly desperate.

          Third, there is no evidence that copyright law helps these people you care about, just as patent law doesn't help "inventors". All forms of privatised culture benefit only those with lawyers and muscle. This also should be obvious, either from studying history (who actually lobbied to create these laws, starting in the 15th century), or by deduction (any law is only tested in the courts, and since these are civil laws, contested between parties, which party will always win? Indeed, it's the one with more and better lawyers and more taste for lawsuits).

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          It would also be pretty rough for musicians, because now they would have to live on revenue from live shows. That's great for acts that bring in a lot of people. It means that the people at the bottom, though—the singer-songwriters and small garage bands of the world—would not be able to use recordings to supplement the pittance that they get from club owners.

          You obviously don't know much about how that part of the music industry works.

          Most bands, especially the small ones, do not make any significant profits on recordings. They only make any real money by playing in clubs, and for most of them that's just covering costs. Merchandise (t-shirts etc) also brings money. Recordings are promotion, sold at the concert at reasonable prices (i.e. less than half the typical retail shop price for a major-label artist), hopefully to be lent by the concert goer to friends,

          • by dgatwood (11270)

            Most bands, especially the small ones, do not make any significant profits on recordings.

            Hah. You mean most signed bands don't make any significant profits on recordings. However, if there are no record labels, there won't be any signed bands, which makes that an irrelevant point.

            Most unsigned bands pay out of their own pockets to rent a studio, pay out of their own pockets to sell CDs, and then sell the CDs at their shows at a price designed to make them some profit. It may not be a huge profit, but th

        • by Rolgar (556636)

          14 years is too long. 5 years should be long enough. The 14 year limit centuries ago was more fitting than now.

          Let's say that you sold a book to a publisher 200+ years ago. They decide to print a small run, and ship it all around the country. What could be done today in a matter of 2 months (maybe less) would have taken almost a year to print, distribute, advertise, get good reviews and word of mouth, sell out and then receive orders for additional copies if a work was unexpectedly popular. Then, you would

          • by dgatwood (11270)

            On the flip side, most of the movies I buy are over five years old. I don't buy first-run movies; I wait for the price drop after a few years until they're in the $4.99 bin. In effect, that means that I would never spend money for entertainment. That means that five years is too short.

            Also, there's no real incentive to buy or rent a movie or watch it in a theater if you know that just five years of delayed gratification will get you a legal download copy for free.

            I'm not saying 28 years isn't too long, m

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by alostpacket (1972110)
        Not going to debate a philisophical rhetoric, but fashion has tangible goods. It's not a good analogy. Nor is historical precedence where most artists died in poverty. I fully agree that patents and copyright are severely broken and laws are meant to serve the priveleged, but this kind of "all culture should be free" nonsense is bordering on fantasy land. There has to be a reasonable middle.
        • by pieterh (196118) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @01:22AM (#35889986) Homepage

          It's not the job of the legal system to feed artists, nor inventors, nor entrepreneurs. We all live or die off our ability to create value for others.

          As for "all culture should be free" being nonsense and fantasy, realize that the vast majority of culture is free, and always has been. As I wrote in my previous post, your very ability to argue that owning culture is somehow a good thing depends on the massive free sharing by others of their work.

          Reasonable middle grounds are fine. But the problem here is that there is no safe dividing line. It's just as with software patents. There is no objective line to be drawn between "good" and "bad". Once you allow some, no matter how hard you try to limit the scope, any defined line will move inexorably. It's obvious, really. If you accept the (and this really is the fantasy) argument that privatised culture is more valuable than shared culture, you will always accept a little more. If one patent is good, two is better and a million even better. If 14 years' copyright is good, 15 is better, and 100 is even better.

          It is rather like smallpox. There's no reasonable middle ground. Eradication, abolition of privatized culture (and technology and ideas) is the only sustainable long term situation, and though it's far from an inevitable outcome, it's one worth fighting for.

          • Don't know about smallpox, but if you're too poor to find a dollar to pay for a song to support an artist you like, you're probably not making much of a contribution to society anyway. Copyright has problems, but overall it's a reasonable way to ensure that those who enjoy the works give a little contribution back to the creators. And those who don't like it, don't have to give anything.
            • Don't know about smallpox, but if you're too poor to find a dollar to pay for a song to support an artist you like, you're probably not making much of a contribution to society anyway. Copyright has problems, but overall it's a reasonable way to ensure that those who enjoy the works give a little contribution back to the creators. And those who don't like it, don't have to give anything.

              No, the reasonable way to ensure that CREATORS are supported is education. We should learn from our parents that we should support those CREATORS whom make works that we enjoy. I will support them whether there is a law forcing me to do it or not, because that is how I am educated.

              I emphasize the word "creators" because current copyright laws are not made to ensure that we contribute back to creators, they are made so parasites can take those contributions away from the creators so they can profit indefini

              • No, the reasonable way to ensure that CREATORS are supported is education. We should learn from our parents that we should support those CREATORS whom make works that we enjoy.

                Apparently education doesn't work too well at that, given the high rates of copyright violation that takes place in Universities. Maybe you'd like to expand on what kind of education you have in mind that will help people be as generous as you?

                This is how the music industry works, and it is the one behind this laws, and so I don't buy anything but independent music for the time being.

                If the musicians decide to give up a large portion of their earnings in exchange for publicity, that is their decision, not mine. It is up to them, whether I think it is a stupid decision or not.

            • Don't know about smallpox, but if you're too poor to find a dollar to pay for a song to support an artist you like, you're probably not making much of a contribution to society anyway.

              Perhaps your supposed societal non-contributor is also a suffering artist who isn't paid? If people are worthless to society if they are not getting paid and artists are not getting paid -> artists are worthless to society.

              With a statement like yours, you must really hate artists. What did they ever do to you?

              • You have weird logic that doesn't make sense to me. You'll have to explain yourself more coherently if you want me to respond. (Note: unless you want me to respond by mocking you. I enjoy mocking people who don't make sense).
            • by richlv (778496)

              i've met some people who were fully into volunteer work and charity. even so that they didn't have anything left for themselves.
              i'm somehow thinking that they might have been more useful to the society than somebody who is buying a right to listen to music.

              • Doubtful. If they live in the US, they can go out on a street and beg for money and soon have enough to pay for a single song. Also, if you really want to help people, it's counterproductive to volunteer so much that you starve to death. Have to take care of yourself first.
                • by richlv (778496)

                  why should everybody be bent on paying on an artificial monopoly, introduced to motivate people to create more artistic works, and initially limited to way shorter term than has happened to be today ?
                  you make it sound like people should be better begging for money to guarantee income for another group of people, who... frankly speaking, are not useful to the society. there, i said - society as a whole would be better off with those people doing more productive work, as art and entertainment would be produce

                  • Uh, just because you use economic buzzwords like 'artificial monopoly' doesn't mean you've made a coherent argument.

                    If you don't like the music or art, you have a choice, don't pay for it. If you enjoy it without giving back to the creator, you're a scumbag, you leach.
  • My latest psychic prediction.
  • Coffee Shop (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Suppose I walk into a coffee shop, and (in honor of the previous comments) download the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy via a torrent. I committed the crime*, but the coffee shop would get the notice indicating they need to take corrective action. Is this the first step in destroying public WiFi access? (*That is, unless you consider the movie itself to be a crime against the book)
    • (*That is, unless you consider the movie itself to be a crime against the book)

      Only as much as the book is a crime against the radio show. Douglas Adams wrote them all, after all.

      The only crime would be a "book of the film".

  • Britain also horrendous libel laws.

    Given that warning letters without significant supporting evidence can be considered damaging to the reputation of an individual, it would seem appropriate that if you are on the receiving end of a warning letter, you should sue the sender for libel.

    If this happens enough, then it might results in changes to one of the DEA laws or libel laws, so it would be a win win type deal.

  • The tech improvements to hide yourself from the watchers will start accelerating. The technology war has just begun.
    Honestly, this will be interesting to watch.

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