OK, I'm in need of help here. Have I got this right?
I got an interesting pointer from a European Copyfight reader indicating that I should take a look at the growing controversy over the European Parliament's proposed new telecoms package. As far as I can tell the source of this controversy is here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/eplive/expert/shotlist_page/20080708SHL33636/default_en.htm
This is a set of innocuous-sounding proposals to "co-ordinate" and "harmonise" radio spectrum use. It contains high-minded phrases like "safeguard media pluralism." It proposes setting up some kind of overarching governing body (Body of European Regulators in Telecommunications (BERT)). National regulators would have to submit proposed regulations to BERT. Seems pretty simple. That's one side.
On the other side we have some pretty inflammatory language. "European Parliament rushes towards Soviet Internet" screams the not-for-profit FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure).
The FFII claims to be "largely responsible for the rejection of the EU software patent directive in July 2005" and to speak for over 100,000 members. Their objection to the telecom package seems to revolve around a set of amendments that were (to use a US phrase) back-doored in at the last minute. Apparently, these amendments would permit BERT "to define which are the authorised software applications for the internet." Which is to say, if your preferred app doesn't meet with regulatory approval then you can't run it, your ISP can't provide it to you?
That'd be... bad. But wait, there's more.
A site called "TELECOMTV" is conducting a related petition campaign against the package, on the grounds that among the 800 or so amendments to the package is language that would remove ISPs content-neutral immunity.
In particular, ISPs currently aren't required to monitor or police content or user identities on their networks, until something specific arises such as an allegation of copyright violation or other illegal activity. ISPs are "mere conduits" under current laws; the new amendments would remove that protection and force ISPs to track or even block individuals' access to the net.
TelecomTV is arguing for the removal of three specific amendments that would force ISPs to act as copyright police. They are also opposed to the spread of something like a "3 Strikes" rule ("Riposte Graduee" in French) that would require ISPs to warn, discipline, and eventually sever users.
This doctrine is presently generating a lot of criticism in France where it was first proposed. Organizations such as "La Quadrature du Net" are calling for a moratorium on new rules related to digital telecoms rights & freedoms. The argument is that the MEP (Members of the European Parliament) didn't really understand what they were voting on, don't grok the net, and need to consider the implications of new regulations more fully before passing them.
I hope I've done this issue some measure of justice. An American point of view isn't necessarily going to translate some of these things well, even though most of the published materials are in English.
For years (and I mean YEARS - remember this report from 2005? Or Diebold's abuse of takedown notices from 2003?) copyfighters have been complaining about the abuse of the DMCA's takedown notice provisions.
In the ongoing saga of Universal Music versus a dancing baby, we have finally gotten a ruling stating that copyright holders must take fair use into account. Timothy Lee's write-up on the decision for ars technica goes through the claims Universal made and notes that the judge either simply ignored them or slapped them down. (Hint to Judge Jeremy Fogel: ignoring the Cartel's willful stupidity may reduce your blood pressure but isn't likely to get them to stop it.)
So what happens now? Well, Stephanie Lenz's suit against Universal is still alive at this point, but there's nothing stopping them from throwing more legal sand in the gears. In theory Lenz and her EFF lawyers can now begin discovery for their case. We'll see how far that goes.
EFF posted a PDF of the decision: http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/lenz_v_universal/lenzorder082008.pdf
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August 19, 2008
Cory Doctorow and DJ Spooky on stage together in NYC to benefit the CBLDF.
Details here: http://www.cbldf.org/pr/archives/000367.shtml
Two very interesting and thoughtful people. Benefiting a great charity. What more could you ask? (except to be in NYC this Thursday night)
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August 11, 2008
A little over a year ago I was writing about negotiations between SoundExchange and Web streamcasters. The issue was a set of exorbitant new fees authorized by the US Copyright office. Back then it appeared that Congress might even pass some kind of legislation. In the glare of scrutiny and public outcry, the Cartel backed down, a little. Web radio didn't die.
But it did ingest a poison - a slow-acting set of fees and restrictions that may yet kill the nascent industry. According to Peter Whoriskey's story in this weekend's Washington Post Pandora may have to shut down due to the fees.
Pandora is wildly popular by Internet standards: over 1 million online customers, a top-10 app for iPhone, and adding 40,000 new customers/day. With numbers like that, why would the business shutter? Well, according to the story, 70% of the anticipated USD 25 million all those customers generate will go to fees. The company is losing money even as it grows, when it should have gone revenue-positive next year.
Last year it was Markey who tried to broker a deal. This year the Congressional go-between seems to be Berman (D-CA) but he's frustrated to the point of pulling the plug. Regardless of individual Congresscritters' frustrations, nothing seems to be in the works to fix the fundamental inequalities that force Web casters to pay rates more than double that of satellite radio. Sat radio rates are based on percentage-of-revenue, a metric that Web radio has asked for repeatedly and never gotten; Web radio pays per-song. Traditional radio, of course, still pays no performance royalties.
Oddly, the Pandora blog has nothing about this; last year Westergren used the blog as a hell-raising tool.
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August 6, 2008
Our friends at the FMC sent me a couple pointers to upcoming events, primarily their fall seminar series. Here are the pointers of interest:
Monday, September 22, Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, IL: http://www.futureofmusic.org/events/Chicago08/
Monday, October 6, Public Theater, New York, NY: http://www.futureofmusic.org/events/NYC08/
Seminars cost $25 and are primarily targeted at musicians and other people involved in the business of making, selling, or distributing music.
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August 5, 2008
Kevin Kelly - who a few months ago put out the notion of "true fan" - has another interesting assertion in his blog: people want to pay for stuff.
Why, then, is copying - and not paying - so prevalent? Kelly says that people want to pay if they perceive that the exchange is fair, if it's easy enough, and if they understand some sort of benefit that comes from the paying.
Just stating a benefit (enabling creators to be paid) isn't enough. Conversely, just threatening a negative (lawsuits) isn't enough. Kelly refers to a survey of UK youth in which the surveyed indicated a desire for a monthly-fee unlimited use music service. More or less the way television is delivered to them now.
I'm more or less on-board with this notion. It's essentially what Copyfight has been arguing for years: the experience matters, new business models are needed, etc. The place where I differ is when Kelly asserts that what we want is a relationship, and that paying is a form of/part of that.
I'm sorry, but I really don't want to have a relationship with iTunes, or NBC, or even a hip Web 2.0 technology like Flikr. Paying for these things doesn't make me feel differently in respect to them. I want to have a relationship with people, whether it's a Big Name creator like Joss Whedon or other fans. If Whedon makes his creations available on iTunes or NBC then I might pay those entities as a necessary component of being a fanboy, or if other fans share images on Flikr that's part of a relationship. Paying is just incidental, which is why I think Kelly isn't paying enough attention to his own hints that the payment process has to be so easy (seamless) that it fades into the background.
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