One of the original purposes of the internet was to allow researchers to share material, alas as this interconnectivity grew the ability for people to share much more than just ideas and research papers created a headache for established music and film distribution systems. Rather than embrace the internet in its early years, we now see many big content producers trying to legislate and control access, essentially putting the genie back in the bottle.
This brings us to 2012, where we see ACTA (the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) being passed by the UK Government in a similar fashion to how the older Digital Economy Act appeared, i.e. quickly with as little fuss as possible. As Darren Farnden of Entanet points out, ACTA should mean very little difference for the UK, as existing laws already allow for blocking of websites. Also the actions of a foreign government can have implications for UK internet users, e.g. the closure of MegaUpload which has seen both legitimate users and those using the service to exchange copyright protected material without the rights holder permission blocked from the site.
Of more interest is an article suggesting that new proposals are close to appearing that will make blocking of internet websites easier for copyright enforcement purposes. While there are some websites largely dedicated to sharing infringing material, there are also often totally legal users of these services, so hopefully we will not see blinkered requests to remove a complete domain from the internet, but something more targeted.
A lot of the opposition to the various new copyright controls is coming from established large internet firms, which can be seen as two industries fighting each other. Perhaps one reason that Google seems to be fighting the consumers corner is the experiences they have had when trying to arrive at licensing agreements for content. Also as the new kids on the block there is less interest in protecting an existing distribution network.
There is no doubt that some internet users have used broadband to build massive personal collections of films and music, and it is this volume that often creates the big figures for losses the content providers complain of. Alas little clear research has surfaced on whether this actually acts as promotion for the content producer, e.g. people paying to go watch an act live, or visit the cinema for the sequel, generating income down the line. We have a generation of people leaving school that have now always had the internet, who want to download a track after hearing it on the radio, but how often are singles still promoted months ahead of release, meaning the only copy available is one that infringes copyright.
Perhaps copyright holders should be forced to offer reasonable access terms for internet based delivery systems, like LoveFilm, Netflix and the growing number of movie streaming services, in return for being able to use the new legislation.