The battle against digital piracy is one of the most controversial subjects when it comes to the online economy.
The wide availability of peer-to-peer filesharing services and websites that promote content sharing has been a thorn in the side of the recording and movie industries.
Thus far, most of their efforts to reign in digital piracy have failed and some, such as lawsuits against individual consumers, have earned them scorn. A new measure being considered in the UK by Lord Carter of Barnes, the Communications Minister, probably isn’t going to change that dynamic.
As part of the government’s Digital Britain Green Paper, it will be suggested that a quasi non-governmental organization be set up to serve as a liaison between ISPs and intellectual property owners, namely record labels and movie studios.
The organization would, amongst other things, provide the rights holders with information about serial copyright infringers in cases where a court order has been obtained. To fund the organization, a charge of up to £20 a year per broadband connection would be levied on the ISPs and they would inevitably tack this on to the bill of their subscribers.
In other words, if the ministers move forward with this plan, UK internet users with a broadband connection could be facing increased costs of up to £20 a year.
I’m all for protecting the rights of intellectual property owners but this seems like a bad way to do it. As Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt stated, “A new quango and additional taxes seem a bizarre way to stimulate investment in
the digital economy. We have a communications regulator; why, when times are
tough, should business have to fund another one?“
The reality is that instead of investing significant resources in fighting consumer piracy, intellectual property owners would probably be better served working on ways to turn more individuals into paying customers and focusing their enforcement efforts on large-scale commercial piracy.
If UK internet users are going to be taxed, they should at least get something in return. How about unlimited access to music and movie downloads?