Saturday, 16 October 2010

The subsidies begin...

France has been working hard to protect copyright of late. The three strikes law is now in effect, with letters going out to suspected infringers. Very important word there, suspected. No need for proof. After three suspected instances of copyright infringement you are essentially banned from the internet for a year. Trying to get around that ban is a crime in itself.

Ars Technica has a fascinating article on the latest ingenious idea for propping up another dead industry. Here's an extract which sums the idea up:
The country will attempt to prop up the digital music industry by subsidizing legal music consumption by young people. Under the initiative, citizens between 12 and 25 years old will be able to purchase a "carte musique"—a prepaid card usable on subscription-based music websites. The card will come with €50 worth of credit, but customers only have to pay €25. The rest will be paid by the French government.
So in essence the French government has admitted no one would buy music at current prices, so their plan is to spend taxpayer money in order to create a magical fantasy world where it seems like the music is cheaper, until you're 25.

Here's another great plan, from the same article:
The state has also promised free newspaper subscriptions to all citizens when they turn 18 in order to help the print media compete with online and broadcast journalism.
Once again, spending taxpayer money in order to pretend that these industries arent already dead, creating zombies in corporate form who will shamble on for another decade or two. Rather than simply letting these industries adapt or die, they'll prop them up in their existing form until eventually the subsidies have to dry up and the companies they support will fall flat.

It seems like every time a new initiative emerges to combat piracy it is worse than the one before. When will the line in the sand come when a national Government says "no more" to the relentless new regulations, laws and subsidies which drain the public purse and have never succeeded.

Each new iteration of technology has been hailed by the record industry as the thing which will utterly destroy them. Radio, gramophones, it goes on and on and on.

As the Digital Economy Act starts to bite in this country over the next few years there has never been a greater need for citizens to be informed about the way in which the democratic principles of the state have collapsed in order to prop up industries which have never done anything but whine and complain that they need your money as a taxpayer because they dont deserve it as a business.

For a real vision of what the world could be like take a look at this article by Cory Doctorow, one of an emerging group of people who understand that people can make money without clinging to antiquated notions. His passion speaks for itself, but make sure to read the whole article as its a nuanced argument which can't be summed up in a quote:
I care if your plan involves using "digital rights management" technologies that prohibit people from opening up and improving their own property; if your plan requires that online services censor their user submissions; if your plan involves disconnecting whole families from the internet because they are accused of infringement; if your plan involves bulk surveillance of the internet to catch infringers, if your plan requires extraordinarily complex legislation to be shoved through parliament without democratic debate; if your plan prohibits me from keeping online videos of my personal life private because you won't be able to catch infringers if you can't spy on every video.

And this is the plan that the entertainment industries have pursued in their doomed attempt to prevent copying. The US record industry has sued 40,000 people. The BBC has received Ofcom's approval to use our mandatory licence fees to lock up its broadcasts with DRM so that we can't tinker with or improve on our own TVs and recorders (and lest you think that this is no big deal, keep in mind that the entire web was created by amateurs tinkering with systems around them). What's more Apple, Audible, Sony and others have stitched up several digital distribution channels with mandatory DRM requirements, so copyright holders don't get to choose to make their works available on equitable terms.

In France, the HADOPI "three strikes" rule just went into effect; they're sending out 10,000 legal threats a week now, and have promised 150,000 a week in short order. After three unsubstantiated accusations of infringement, your whole family is disconnected from the internet – from work, education, civic engagement, distant relatives, health information, community. And of course, we'll have the same regime here shortly, thanks to the Digital Economy Act, passed in a three-whip wash-up in the last days of parliament without any substantive debate, despite the thousands and thousands of Britons who asked their legislators to at least discuss this extraordinarily technical legislation before passing it into law.


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