Posts Tagged ‘Digital Britain’

First of all it is hard not to appreciate that the rights holders are the victims in current circumstances. Whether they are victims of a large-scale “digital shoplifting” (‘contentlifting’) or rather some evolutionary transformation, which seems to be leading to their demise, is an interesting, but only to a certain degree relevant matter.

To put it simply, the important point is that throughout the last century various individuals and legal entities invested their capital in order to acquire certain rights and subsequently built their business models [sic!] based on these rights within particular legal framework. Due to the technological change these rights do not seem to be enforceable anymore in any reasonable manner and infringement of these rights have become easy and extremely popular. What’s more, it is often claimed that the legal framework which gives legitimacy to these rights is largely incompatible with current situation due to the same technological progress and should be either significantly modified or revoked all together.

Would that mean that we should deprive right holders of their legitimately obtained assets? or should we legitimise conduct which limits their abilities to benefit from these assets? Isn’t there a difference between allowing some out-of-date business to go bust and allowing for seizure of assets belonging to such business.

The situation is further complicated by the size and power of these entities and effectively the pressure they can apply on policymakers around the world.

It is widely recognized that the rights holders must recognize their position in current digital environment and adjust (or rather replace) their business models, which are still tied to analog distribution of their content. However, having said that one might think that it is a little bit like telling a butcher that he should hang on to his trade but start giving away his meat for free. Obviously, in order to finance the necessary purchase of animals, the butcher would have to start growing vegetables and sell them together with the free meat. No one would probably be surprised that in such circumstances the butcher might prefer to abandon butchering and become a greengrocer.

Considering that we are, to large extent, a carnivorous society one might start to feel uneasy about letting the butcher to quit butchering. In this situation it is down to the policymakers to create such a legal environment, which could provide incentives for the butcher to keep his post, and educate the consumers as to the importance of vegetables in their predominantly meaty diet.

However, what we are currently observing in Europe and particularly in Britain, might seem as an attempt to connect the butcher with a producer of carrier bags. Merger of these two businesses could mean that customer would have to pay somehow inflated price for the carrier bag that comes together with the meat. Having in mind that carrier bags could be used in various ways and not only for carrying meat, it might seem that the consumers are likely to lose should these attempts prove to be successful.

To conclude, instead of making scary faces and dreadful noises, pirates (who, as we all know, tend to use plenty of carrier bags) might start to think seriously about how to convince the butcher that he might be better off by growing vegetables for which they would be happy to pay.


In November 2006, comprehensive Gowers Review of Intellectual Property (pdf) was made available to the public and was subsequently endorsed in full by the Government, which committed itself to much anticipated reform of IP law. Throughout the next three years various initiatives and consultations were put in place but the reform failed to materialize. Nevertheless, in January 2009 Department for Culture, Media and Sport published Digital Britain Interim Report setting out strategy for IP in our increasingly digitalized environment. Both documents read together seem to give an account of the volume and intensity of technological changes experienced during the last few years and its impact on political discourse.
The second report may seem to focus to greater extent on users and on Internet as a platform driving the unprecedented social change and at times it may appear as if the officials learned to appreciate the old “don’t fight the internet” catchphrase. Unfortunately this rhetoric is only a result of unwillingness or inability of the authors to explain in greater detail their proposals. It would not be unreasonable to think of later report as a victim of volatile nature of all-out transition from analog to digital. The high-speed of changes and low level of predictability of potential developments in on-line environment may suggest that traditional methods of analysis utilized on all stages of policy-making processes could prove highly unreliable.
All the same, it might be that changes brought by digitalization and rapid growth of the Internet, reached a point when the rule, “don’t fight the internet” finds its way into official discourse. As a consequence, some might think that various stakeholders would have to recognize that governance of the internet as well as attempts to change or influence behaviors of internet users might have to be carried out on “take it or leave it” basis rather than usual “give and take”. This notion might seem to be supported by general understanding that inflexible application and subsequent attempts to enforce analog IP laws in digital space were most likely to fail and would probably carry significant risk of rapid propagation of Mr. Bumble’s jurisprudence who famously stated that “law is an ass”.
On the other hand, it would be naïve to deem as inconceivable a situation in which Internet and its creative forces are sealed in some innovative CD/DVD box and placed on a shelf of local supermarket. How far are we from absolute disposal of “network neutrality” principles and creation of policies, which would give green light to practices such as traffic prioritization? Would that transform intangible social phenomenon into tangible infrastructure? It is certain that in such a situation negotiations between stakeholders would still be harsh; however, the power to dictate the terms of any potential agreement would change sides. Effectively it could turn users back into receivers, Winnie the Pooh with Mickey Mouse would be back in their living rooms and there would be no Star Wars Kid, Numa Numa Dancer or Free Hugs Campaign.
In other words, Internet can be free but it doesn’t have to.
The trouble with current situation is that it leads to a point when most reasonable approach would seem to be the one proposed by Wittgenstein when he wrote:
“(…) what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.”
Which might pose various practical difficulties in context of policymaking, if not in every possible context. However, I personally would prefer this approach rather than the one, which involves throwing the reason out of the window (pdf).