Piracy, filtering and the place of criminal law

France is trying to create a graded response to piracy obliging ISPs to filter the internet and the users’ access to be blocked in case of infringement. It’s still a Parliament bill but very controversial.
Piratage : les moteurs bientôt soumis au filtrage du Web ?” (JDN, 6 March 2009)
I’m not a copyrights’ specialist but the story, like everything that I can read about piracy issues (thinking of the Swedish(?) case of Pirate Bay), brings to mind several comments:

1) I don’t think copyrights should be violated per se and should necessarily disappear; however, I don’t believe either that the system can work the way it was created and generalised a good century ago. The internet changed the background, the landscape in which copyrights operated. Works are now easily available – They are cheap but often of good quality because of the nature of digital technology – the immanent nature of the internet allows for permanent and vast diffusion of works whether illegal or legal

2) thus, criminal law cannot be the response to a problem which dimensions changed because of the internet. Piracy always existed. Not the internet.
In other words, reflexion on copyrights and availability of creative works should be primary rather than a push towards investigation, prosecution and sentencing.
A la veille du vote des députés : retour sur la future loi ‘création et Internet’ ” (Juris.com, 22 February 2009)

And filtering is not the answer.
the IWF story in the UK illustrates well the controversy “IWF chief: Why Wikipedia block went wrong ” (ZDNet.co.uk, 20 February 2009)
The following article (in French) reveals a study made about ISPs and their perception of filtering for piracy if the French bill is enacted: most won’t do it and if they do, they’ll certainly not support the costs (= the Government has to do it!) “Ce que pensent les FAI du filtrage du Web” (JDN, 4 March 2009)

3) compared to other crimes, frankly, piracy is the least important. Especially when those benefiting copyrights are more often than not the big companies and not even the authors themselves. If the same amount of energy and money were put into fraud or child porn, cybercrime would be greatly reduced. Which say something about our society: better to protect property of big businesses than to protect the persons and their individual well-being. Problematic no?

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About Audrey Guinchard

Senior Lecturer @ University of Essex (UK)
This entry was posted in Filtering, General - Criminalisation, Offences - Piracy. Bookmark the permalink.

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