Entertainment industry lobby groups often describe file-sharers as thieves who refuse to pay for any type of digital content. But not everyone agrees with this view. Swedish telecom giant Ericsson sees copyright abuse as the underlying cause of the piracy problem. In a brilliant article, Rene Summer, Director of Government and Industry Relations at Ericsson, explains how copyright holders themselves actually breed pirates by clinging to outdated business methods.
When it comes to discussing file-sharing and copyright-related issues, extremists often make a sensible debate impossible. The most vocal rightsholder groups would ideally turn the Internet into a virtual police state, and at the other end of the spectrum there are groups that want to abolish copyright entirely.
But as argued before, the solution will most likely lie somewhere in the middle.
In the past, several people have indicated that the best strategy for copyright holders to dissolve piracy might not be based in legislation. Harsh anti-piracy measures will only distance consumers even further from their products and it is doubtful whether they will deter many copyright infringers. Instead, it might be wise for copyright holders to examine why people use file-sharing networks and see if they can come up with a competing offer that makes the official product more appealing that its pirated counterpart.
As it turns out, the above view is not the sole preserve of a small group of digital revolutionaries and stuffy academics. In the most recent issue of the Ericsson Business Review, Rene Summer, Director of Government and Industry Relations at Ericsson, offers some similar suggestions. Speaking for Ericsson, Summer states that copyright holders should stop their calls for harsher anti-piracy legislation, and focus their attention on giving consumers what they really want.
âCurrent restrictions have forced European consumers into a digital exile. Seeking an appropriate way to access legal digital content, and unable to satisfy this legitimate desire through a legitimate digital alternative, many resort to illegal file-sharing. Economic rights holders spare little expense in pursuing and prosecuting these individuals, and do not hesitate to ask courts or policymakers to mandate Internet service providers (ISPs) and other intermediaries to police such behavior,â Summer writes.
âISPs are being forced to act as digital security agents on behalf of economic rights holders by listening in, screening, surveying and filtering the exchange of information between consumers. Such strict enforcement further damages the prospects of legal digital alternatives by introducing the principle of innovation by permission. It also carries unwelcome echoes of the old Eastern-bloc surveillance societies that modern Europe has decisively rejected.â
Aside from stressing that pushing for draconian anti-piracy measures at the political level might not be the best strategy, Summer also believes that copyright holders themselves might be one of the main reasons that piracy exists in the first place. Unnecessary restrictions and virtual barriers take away fundamental freedoms and breed pirates, he argues.
âFile-sharing is a symptom of a problem, rather than a problem in itself. This problem is the inadequate availability of legal, timely, competitively priced and wide-ranging choices of affordable digital-content offerings. Consumers also expect to be able to make decisions freely regarding when and how to consume the content of their choice. By clinging to outdated business methods such as windowing and territoriality, economic-rights holders are in fact creating the consumer behavior against which they so violently protest,â Summer writes.
âHow can we, as good Europeans, accept this state of affairs? The success of our European project is founded upon freedom of movement â for persons, goods, services and capital. Why should digital content be an exception? How can policymakers continue to endorse the vested interests of economic rights holders at the expense of the promises of the single market and our fundamental freedoms?â
So how does Ericsson suggest that the divide between consumers and copyright holders may be bridged? The answer is very simpleâŠ
âEricsson is calling for full consumer access to legal, timely, competitively priced and wide-ranging compelling content offerings, and a free choice of when, where and how this legal digital content can be consumed. We call for an end to regulatory barriers and deliberate non-availability through windowing and territoriality.
âWe call â a full 60 years after the Treaty of Paris â for a digital single market that not only meets the requirements of todayâs and future European consumers, but also the requirements of European history,â Summer writes.
âThis is a pan-European issue, and as such, it must be addressed uniformly across the continent. To date, efforts to revise legislation have focused on protecting existing practices and content-distribution models, which has unfortunately reinforced the underlying problem and hence its symptoms.
âInstead, targeted policy reforms that stimulate the growth of a well-functioning supply of legal digital content available on-demand for multiple screens are needed if actors at all stages of the value chain are to develop products that successfully meet the evolving needs of consumers.â
Indeed, Ericsson is calling for an end to extensive lobbying for harsher and more restrictive copyright legislation. Instead, the entertainment industry should take it upon themselves to meet the demands of consumers. No more DRM, no more artificial delays, and global availability in all formats possible. In other words, offer products that can compete with piracy instead of attempting to make piracy go away through repressive legislation.
Rene Summerâs words may sound familiar to many TorrentFreak readers, but we donât often hear them being voiced by a director of a billion dollar company. Letâs hope the right people are listening to pick them up.
âEricsson, Taking You Forwardâ