Business and technology consulting firm Detica has urged the UK Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) to shift the focus of its consultation process away from enforcement when considering legislative options for addressing illicit peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing.
Andy Frost, Director of Media at Detica, says: “While we commend BERR’s focus on upholding copyright, we believe the practicalities of enforcement alone will prove too costly and time-consuming for the ISPs to administer. The best solution will be one that meets the needs of the broader community of artists, consumers and labels — and the ISPs that bind them — and not one that fixates on the labels and the hardcore criminal minority that threatens them”.
Detica insists that stronger collaboration between Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and the entertainment industry is the only way to make it easier for consumers to download music and films legally whilst also providing ‘fair trade’ for artists.
Frost continues: “The spirit of the BERR consultation document appears to be overly focused on protecting the interests of record labels who own the copyright material and are being threatened by an explosion in unlicensed P2P file sharing. Of course, labels have a legitimate interest in seeing the authorities resolve this issue, but the reality is that the digital marketplace is very complex. Any solution will need to encapsulate the needs of other stakeholders too, especially artists and consumers who are not necessarily able to demonstrate such a united front to the Government”.
Detica argues that collaboration can be achieved by the industry adopting a voluntary framework in which ISPs deploy advanced technology to identify where and when copyrighted files are being downloaded.
Frost adds: “We can now deploy proven, scaleable intelligence technology within an ISP’s network to enable them to deliver exciting new business models such as a ‘per track’ download fee or an ‘all in’ monthly subscription service. Ultimately, this approach could see the spectre of illegal downloading disappear altogether since users will be charged automatically — and fairly — for any files they download or share”.
As well as bypassing the significant costs and potential ineffectiveness of an enforcement-focused regime, Detica’s proposed solution will enable any profit generated by user downloads to be shared proportionately between ISPs, labels and artists.
Frost comments: “Our collaborative business approach acknowledges all the players impacted by digital downloading and strives to provide a degree of fairness for all. Our experience from the security industry tells us that in these situations voluntary compliance is just as important as enforced compliance — you only use a big stick for the minority of hardened cases.”
Whilst the ISPs will need to absorb the set-up costs of the technology, Detica believes this will likely be less than the costs of administering an enforcement-focused solution. Frost concludes: “With our solution everybody wins, not least the ISPs who will be able to recoup the technology costs by charging customer subscriptions and sharing new customer insight, for a fee, with the content owners”.
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