People often complain about never having a chance to make their voice heard, and that the massive corporations will be the only ones with a say. Following on from last weeks news of a Memorandum of Understanding that will see broadband providers sending out letters to people who are thought to be sharing material in violation of copyright rules, there is now a chance for broadband providers, rights holders and the public to have some input into the next step of the process.
The Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform has started a three month consultation period that will finish on 30th October 2008. The consultation period is designed to gather views on what sort of approach can be taken to address the issue of people exchanging copyrighted material without the permission of the rights holder. While the core area mentioned at present is music, areas like films, software and e-books all fall within the scope of any potential legislation.
Already there have been concerns raised on the reliability of the data used by the BPI to identify those uploading copyrighted material without permission and whether targeting peer-to-peer (p2p) systems will see legitimate users getting hold of game patches suffering as providers throttle p2p traffic. The BPI in 2004 and 2005 apparently settled a number of copyright cases out of court, but some did go to court with the courts finding in favour of the BPI, so it would seem they have tested their monitoring systems to a reasonable degree.
The scale of the problem is hard to judge as surveys have produced very varied results, one survey for the BPI suggests 25% of UK internet users have engaged in online music "piracy". A 2007 survey gave a figure of 43% and another suggested 14% has unlawfully copied music. A survey for British Music Rights suggests that among young people 63% have used unlicensed p2p networks, with an average of 53 music tracks downloaded per month (some admitted to downloading up to 5,000 tracks a month).
If this figure of 53 tracks a month is accurate, it looks unlikely that young people will spend £41.87 (53 x £0.79; a typical price of one track) a month on music even if it became impossible to obtain music online from any source other than official outlets. Who knows what the future of the music industry will be--Music festivals and merchandise are certainly big income generators for artists, and just as small independent labels in the past have rocked the music industries ocean liner, we may see a new label with a new model for the online generation emerge from the sidelines.