The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) in the UK was contacted by a volunteer to determine whether they were interested in hearing from consumers as part of their announced study of DRM, and they confirm that they are very interested ("very keen") indeed to hear from the public on the subject of digital rights management (see previous article for details on their study). They would like to figure out to what degree protection is needed for both copyright holders and consumers.
In fact, they have provided guidelines on how to present case studies and submissions for those who wish to participate, along with suggested reading prior to preparing the material, which I reproduce here. Note the proposed legislation they would like you to read first, including "Proposal for a EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND COUNCIL DIRECTIVE on criminal measures aimed at ensuring the enforcement of intellectual property rights," or "IPRED2" [PDF].
This is the proposed legislation that would make all intentional infringements of "intellectual property rights" of a commercial nature a criminal offense, with penalties to include jail time "and/or monetary fines sufficient to provide a deterrent". It also covers "attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting such offences."
Other penalties are provided for specific cases: "destruction of infringing goods and goods principally used in the manufacture of the goods in question, total or partial closure, on either a permanent or a temporary basis, of the establishment or shop primarily used to commit the infringement. Provision is also made for a permanent or temporary ban on engaging in commercial activities, placement under judicial supervision or judicial winding-up, and a ban on access to public assistance or subsidies. Finally, the publication of judicial decisions is provided for. This can serve as a means of dissuasion and as a channel of information both for right holders and for the public at large."
I think they forgot to add putting them in stocks in the public square to shame them. Oh, and the rack. Well, next time. They might consider a Scarlet Letter for repeat offenders, if we wish to be thorough. Just stamp a big red "I" ("Infringer") on their foreheads or make them wear one on their chests, so we all know who these criminals are.
Now, I'd never tell anyone how to vote. But I can explain to you what I think the legalese is saying. Think of it this way: If the US had such a law, Shawn Fanning and the Grokster folks would be in jail, their businesses shuttered, the materials, including all the computers and servers, seized, they'd be monitored, and they'd not be allowed to continue the business or start a new one, maybe forever, or to apply for public assistance. I guess they mean after they get out of the slammer, since the public will be paying to feed and house them during their visit to jail, and monitoring is what it's all about in there. Oh, and their punishment would be published in the media. No doubt a perp walk, for our edification and the deterrent effect. And their publicists, secretaries, suppliers, programmers, venture capital providers, and all who helped out can get tossed in with them. They have aided and abetted heinous crimes, like copyright infringement, have they not? Note the law covers all intellectual property, not just copyright infringement. So you can become a jailbird for trademark infringement. Patents too.
Best not to have any new and innovative ideas that later -- surprise! -- turn out to be judged as an infringement of someone's Most Holy IP. I daresay there will be no new ideas at all, actually, after this law is passed. Do you know, 100%, when you first invent an iPod whether or not some court somewhere will decide someday you are aiding and abetting piracy? Can you imagine any VC investing in the next iPod? They are risking jail time with every investment in innovation. Now, you may be secretly harboring the view that some VC companies deserve a little jail time, if you've ever dealt with one, but I think we can agree that they are not known for taking on risks like a stay in the pokey. So VC money for innovation will dry up.
You know, I think these legislators actually do think intellectual property "pirates" really are pirates. You know, the kind who attack your ship with a knife in their teeth, take your gold and your ship, and kill you. That has to be the explanation for the severity of the punishments being considered.
Say, now that I think of it, isn't Google being sued right now by the Author's Guild for alleged copyright infringement? What if Google were to lose that lawsuit? Would Brin have to go to jail? And Microsoft is regularly sued for infringing intellectual property. They don't always win. Think Eolas, the case where Microsoft was found guilty of patent infringement and the Supreme Court itself refused to help them get off. And SCO is accused of infringing IBM's copyrights by distributing IBM's GPL'd contributions to Linux after SCO's license terminated for GPL violations. I personally think that'll be a slamdunk for IBM.
Hmm. I'm starting to see some good points in this law.
Joke. Joke. But you see, the problem is, any time there is something new, somebody wants to sue you to make you stop, usually the industry whose business model you are replacing. At first, they often succeed in the courts. If the laws aid and abet their anticompetitive strategies, you can ruin innovation, nothing less. Read Larry Lessig's book, Free Culture, if you'd like a list of such historic events. Last year, I did a reading of Chapters 4 and 5 [MP3 or Ogg], about the history of the media being a history of piracy, if you prefer to listen than to read. It's not a great recording, because I lacked equipment, skills, and experience. I even cough at one point, so I apologize for that. But it just happens to be the chapters on the history of such happenings. Here's more and better audio.
Now, under this law, you'll be throwing all those innovators in jail. And when they get out, they are never allowed to go into any business ever again. Think that might be abused for a competitive advantage? That's how I read the legalese, anyway. Throw in some loathsome DRM, and you've got a throttle on not only innovation but on the Internet and on culture itself. And who benefits? Microsoft, one assumes. Sony. Nike. The entertainment industry. Disney. Entities like that. Drug companies with patents on drugs third world countries can't afford. It's just a short-term benefit though. Eventually, when no one dares to innovate, the economy withers and we all suffer.
APIG says they prefer digital submissions, which should be about 1,000 words, with any essential statistics or details added as appendices. You email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and mark your submission if you do not wish it to be published. The deadline is December 21. APIG may invite some organizations and individuals to give oral testimony in January, at their discretion.
APIG DRM Inquiry: Guidelines for Witnesses
The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group announced its inquiry into
the "Digital Rights Management" on November 15th 2005. The inquiry is
anxious to receive as wide a range of submissions as possible.
Documents of relevance to the inquiry include:
Current UK Law on Copyright, summary page
Current EU Law on Copyright & Neighbouring Rights, summary page
** "IPRED2" [PDF], the proposed 2nd "Intellectual Property" Rights Enforcement
Written submissions should be concise and address the matters raised
by the inquiry, concentrating on the issues with which the witness has a
special interest. A typical length would be about 1,000 words. Essential
statistics or further details can be added as appendices.
It would be very much preferred if written submissions were made in
an electronic format. They should be in plain text (ASCII), Adobe PDF,
Microsoft Word .DOC or .RTF format. Submissions should be dated and
include the name, address and telephone number of the person in the
organisation who is responsible for the submission. They should be sent
via email to email@example.com
It is at the inquiry's discretion to publish any evidence it
receives. Any information that a witness would not wish to be considered
for publication should be clearly marked.
The inquiry has asked for all written evidence to be submitted by
21st December 2005. The Officers of APIG following consideration of
written evidence, will decide, which organisations and individuals to
invite to give oral evidence in Westminster in January 2006.