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Who will be the most tech savvy? Developers or content industry?
Wednesday 27 January 2010 09:20:51 by Andrew Ferguson

The Digital Economy Bill currently passing through the Committee Stage at the House of Lords is trying to help foster digital innovation and protect the rights of content creators. There has been significant discussion over the legislation, particularly in relation to copyright infringement such as the transfer of files to other people over the Internet without the permission of the copyright holder.

TalkTalk has been one of the most vocal voices against the plans for protecting copyright, not because copyright shouldn't be protected but because of the impact the plans may well have. Their latest release warns that 'Robin Hood' developers will neuter the bill with new applications and tools. This is something that is almost inevitable—In the digital world there is nothing like a challenge such as breaking some encryption or building an ability to hide data from others.

The Digital Economy Bill has focused on P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing technology which no doubt is responsible for a significant amount of unlawful activity, but it fails to address the key issue; namely that technical measures are unlikely to have any long term impact on the amount of illegal file sharing. Innovative programmers will develop better technology which can combined the use of encryption, proxies and distributed routing of traffic through multiple jurisdictions to make the identification of content (as perfectly legal or unlawful) as well as those engaging in unlawful copying of content an expensive, if not technically almost impossible task.

We may end up with a bill that increases costs for the music industry and service providers, which all of course filter down to consumers. It is quite possible the bill will end up being obsolete within a matter of months, or indeed we may find reports that copyright infringement has dropped, when in fact it has simply become much harder to detect.

TalkTalk raises a few interesting points to illustrate other ways in which the legislation, or more precisely the detection of breaches, can be avoided:

  • Applications that scan internet radio stations, matching meta tag information and then downloading the selected tracks.
  • Websites that stream premium content outside the UK, but can still be accessed inside the UK, when it was not licensed for the UK audience.
  • Applications that can remove DRM or rip streamed content from various catch-up TV services.

Of course it could be made illegal to carry out any such activities, but in order for it to be effective we would need to require licenses for anyone using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), remote desktop protocols or indeed any encryption whatsoever. Suddenly, the framework sounds quite similar to the great firewall of China.

People will always crack, hack and work around every restriction sooner or later, and the only way to deal with this problem is to ensure that rights holders provide a framework which ensures easy and legal access to digital content that is fair both to the end users and those in the music and film industries. The pricing models in the music industry have so far failed to adapt to the online world, and the Internet is too often seen as the problem, rather than a platform for a new innovative revenue stream. It is important for example, to ensure that when renting movies online, you provide the best quality versions in open formats, so those wishing to enjoy the highest quality experience are not forced into obtaining illegal copies ripped from a high definition DVDs and distributed illegally, but can enjoy this content legally at a fair price.

When asked why you might need faster broadband services, many examples cited include more video content, but the Digital Economy Bill stands a real chance of hindering rather than enabling many of these new services as there is little incentive for rights holders to ensure next generation distribution models. In the House of Lords debate today, the issue of piracy was discussion with respect to one of the recent films. One noble Lord suggested that the film's takings may have been increased by the interest raised on the Internet, rather than resulting in a financial loss.


Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
I think that many have written to or advised the Lords, because they seem to be seeing through the DEB. They certainly pulled it to bits in the debate yesterday, especially the sneaky clause 17 which the dark lord has inserted to take control of the internet totally 'one day'. Clever old Lords, although two did fall asleep in the boring bits they are starting to get IT and hopefully will save our digital future from the clutches of the dark side.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
The DEB is deeply flawed, written by people who just don't get IT. It is written initially to protect an obsolete business model for the greedy hangers on in the music industry, it will do nothing to help the artists. It is also a move to get DPI slid into the equation. and we like our packets private don't we? How are we gonna get people to use online banking and egov etc if they think someone is spying on them? ffs.
Posted by Locky over 7 years ago
good article, a few grammatical errors.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
quote"In the House of Lords debate today, the issue of piracy was discussion with respect to one of the recent films. One noble Lord suggested that the film's takings may have been increased by the interest raised on the Internet, rather than resulting in a financial loss."

There is hope one of them atleast has a brain, didnt see/hear the dicussion myself but Avatar is a good example, has become highest grossing film, even with so called nasty P2P
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
I wonder if Avatar could be the saving of us all? It really does prove the point that piracy doesn't affect something good. (although I don't believe Avatar story is any good, but they say the effects are fantastic). If they had released a low res version of avatar free, even more may have flocked to cinemas to see the 3d version? Kids don't mind listening to low quality stuff to see if they like it, but will always pay for high quality if they do like it. (or get parents/grannies to buy it for birthdays etc)..
Posted by otester over 7 years ago
They seem to forget that many are boycotting them for all the sueing in regards to riaa/mpaa songs/movies.

I however have spent hundreds on video games over the years.
Posted by Confuzed over 7 years ago
"focused on P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing technology which no doubt is responsible for a significant amount of unlawful activity"

When a murderer shoots his victim, is it the fault of the gun?

The technology is not responsible for the actions of people that misuse it.
Posted by thermalsocks over 7 years ago
Our current government only know how to restrict, tighten, confine, reduce, limit, regulate, intrude, & monitor. Their laws and thinking have only this vocabulary. Liberate, innovate, free, unrestricted, relax, are words that are never used. Most of the government and the House of Lords still use quill pen & ink and messenger boys, so asking them to legislate on the use of the Internet is pointless. Plainly the government fear the power of the Internet and the freedoms it represents together with the power of lobbyists from traditional media companies.
Posted by Fixer109 over 7 years ago
Don't forget that you are the people that put them in power.

the next election is looming - remember the above - and go out and vote for the right party.
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 7 years ago
I didn't put them in power! Anyway what the hell is "the right party"? The LibDems have got closer to being IT savvy than either of the two main protagonists, but they haven't got any closer to being capable of forming a Government.

The Lords have shown the most ability at cutting through the crap sent to them in the form of half-arsed Bills, but they aren't allowed to run the country and usually are forced to pass the shredder fodder they are sent.
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