Right, so “Lord” Mandelson has announced that the Government is indeed going to go ahead with their unenforceable nonsensical plans to “cripple the internet bandwidth of persistent file sharers“. Here’s a few highlights of the plans:
- the cut-off is a ‘last resort‘, used if people don’t comply with requests.
- the cost of monitoring will be “shared between ISPs and content providers” – that means that the labels that are already incapable of making money for the musicians signed to them are now going to fund this Wile E. Coyote-esque plan to catch people sharing files.
- The ‘trade-off’ is that copyright ‘law’ will be rejigged so that now – WOW – “someone who has bought a CD would be able to copy it to their iPod or share it with family members without acting unlawfully.” (does he not remember listening to tapes made from his mum’s record collection in the car in the 80s??)
So, let’s recap what’s already been said about this –
- statistics from the BPI and the Govt already suggest that the cost of implementing it are going to be higher than the potential ‘losses’ from people downloading free-stuff-that-the-people-who-administer-the-copyright-say-shouldn’t-be-available-without-paying-for-it.
- It’s ONLY being supported by the muppets who want the untenable version of the ‘old music industry’ (a statistical blip in the timeline of humanity’s relationship with music that stretches back tens of thousands of years…) to continue in its unsustainable lottery-esque way.
- EVEN the jewell in the pro-3strikes camp’s crown – support from the FAC – was, as Billy Bragg has said, unrepresentative.
So, what’s new?
Well, how does it work? Let’s have a look at that.
First up, let’s consider what can be measured to determine ‘illegal filesharing’? Well, the ways to identify the file itself would be through metadata – it being labeled as the music track, film, document, home movie, whatever. Or there’s the file size – you know when you put a CD into iTunes and it recognises what it is via the gracenote database, but it doesn’t if you put in a compilation CD of tracks you did yourself? That’s because it’s recognising files-size. or, more specifically for music, track-length as represented by file size. Quite often with CD singles of only 2 or 3 tracks, there’ll be multiple possibilities.
So, if you change the size of a file and mislabel it, it’s identity is completely impossible to determine.
So, your other alternatives for discerning ‘suspicious’ usage are based on tools or volume of traffic – ergo, “if you use Bit Torrent, you’re probably up to no good” (no mention of the myriad possible legal uses that are going to balloon over the next 5 years – let’s not forget that the iPlayer is [EDIT ‘was’ – see comments] P2P!), or “if you are downloading and uploading loads of massive files, you’re probably up to no good”. So when Lily Allen is swapping files with her producer for her next album (assuming she’s not too depressed by all this to bother making music), she’ll be flagged as a potential abuser based on the amount of traffic, and then what? A sampling of your files get diverted for analysis? Yeah, we’re all in favour of that. Mandelson’s Brave New World vision is complete. We’re living in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Awesome!
So, let’s have a look at what’s being reported about the problem of file-sharing…
There seem to be a lot of statistics about how many tracks are being downloaded outside of the terms of the current legislative framework, without money changing hands (sorry for the overly-long-winded terminology, but the notion of ‘piracy’ is ludicrous, and even illegality is often tenuous). Those statistics are collected because of the metadata that helps us find the stuff we want to download (that’s an all-inclusive collective ‘we’, not restricted to people I know or even agree with 😉 )
If I knew that 100,000 copies of my album had been downloaded without anyone paying for it, I’d be SO excited – what an incredible potential there is in that! 100 THOUSAND people wanting to listen to me enough to wait for the download, and I didn’t even need to advertise it for that to happen. It didn’t COST ME ANYTHING!! If it’s happening, I want to know about it. I REALLY REALLY don’t want that data disappearing. I need to know it, it’s part of my business strategy to be able to track that stuff. If a legal framework like the one Mandelson suggests is in place, I’ll no longer have that data. I’ll be robbed of the knowledge of who’s sharing my music, so I won’t be able to get the benefit from that.
Why won’t I have that metadata? Because filesharing will just become a different process – text-based private chat rooms will appear, files wanted will be discussed and then shared between individuals. It’s so easy, and it already happens. Some twitter DMs someone else, ‘have you got such and such a film/track/document, I need it for XYZ’ file gets sent via dropbox/IM/email/whatever. That + added encryption or file + metadata alternations = untrackable data. You don’t even need any new ‘IP hiding’ tech to do it. There’s nothing scary about it, it’s just networks of people connected by a shared interest in a particular cultural area swapping things related to it.
And in the meantime, they offer up a collective ‘fuck you’ to the government and the mainstream record labels and film companies, and see beating the draconian measures as a morally-driven act of defiance. And those agents lose the access to the massive potential well of magical goodness that is the data around file-sharing. Lose/Lose.
So, Mandelson is a behaving for all the world like a supreme bellend and his “law” is untenable, useless and massively counter-productive, as well as obstructive to the business practices of anyone attempting to embrace the opportunities of 21st century content distribution mechanisms, rather than drag us back to a world CD and DVD hegemony. Anyone got his phone number so I can have a chat?by