Paris, May 23rd, 2011 – Tomorrow, the EU Commission will release its “intellectual property rights strategy” [Update: See the IPR strategy on the Commission’s website]. Unsurprisingly, leaks show that the Commission will call for preventing copyright infringements on the Internet “at the source”, by forcing Internet companies such as hosters and access providers to obey the entertainment industries. In practice, turning these actors into a copyright police comes down to establishing a censorship regime, paving the way for dangerous breaches of fundamental rights.
For years, policy-makers have been implementing repressive schemes to fight not-for-profit exchanges of copyrighted works by individuals over the Internet. Ever since they lost control over the distribution channels of cultural works, the biggest entertainment majors have relentlessly explained that the whole creative economy is going bankrupt. But an evidence-based approach to the filesharing phenomenon shows that the negative impact of so-called piracy is a myth: those who exchange cultural works on the Internet are fans, not free-riders. Even the study commissioned by the infamous HADOPI – the agency in charge of implementing the three-strike scheme in France – showed that people who share cultural works online declare spending more on cultural goods than consumers who do not
“The sharing of culture between individuals is a positive force for the creative economy, cultural diversity and access to culture. Even though facilitating the commercial distribution of creative works on the Internet is positive, it can not be done at the expense of criminalizing a practice which has obvious benefits, if one dares consider the evidence.” says Philippe Aigrain, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net.
Although the Commission explains that the IPRED directive will be revised to step up the repression of online infringements, it is hard to see a principle-basis. It is all the more worrying that, as announced by Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier, what the Commission envisions is extra-judicial enforcement of copyright at the core of the Internet’s architecture. Following Nicolas Sarkozy’s realization that measures weighing on Internet users are political and technical failures
“Like the United States with the PROTECT IP Act, the goal of EU authorities is to use technical means to block communications and restrict users’ access in the name of enforcing an obsolete vision of copyright. Such a scheme would lead to the establishment of a censorship infrastructure by online actors, technically similar to those currently used in authoritarian states. In the process, freedom of communication, privacy as well as the right to a fair trial would inevitably be undermined.”, says Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for La Quadrature du Net.
“This shift towards an increased role of Internet platforms in preventing the sharing of cultural works online is alarming. It comes down to transforming the very architecture of the Internet for the sole benefit of a few corporate players. Their harmful influence on policy-making is keeping us away from a crucial reflection on how to fund the creative economy of the 21st century.”, concludes Zimmermann.