29 December 2009

Copyright Infringement: A Modest Proposal

The UK government's Canute-like efforts to stem the tide of online copyright infringement have plumbed new depths, it seems:


Proposals to suspend the internet connections of those who repeatedly share music and films online will leave consumers with a bill for £500 million, ministers have admitted.

The Digital Economy Bill would force internet service providers (ISPs) to send warning letters to anyone caught swapping copyright material illegally, and to suspend or slow the connections of those who refused to stop. ISPs say that such interference with their customers’ connections would add £25 a year to a broadband subscription.

As Mike Masnick points out:

Note, of course, that the music industry itself claims that £200 million worth of music is downloaded in the UK per year (and, of course, that's only "losses" if you use the ridiculous and obviously incorrect calculation that each download is a "lost sale").

So this absurd approach will actually cost far more than it will save, even accepting the grossly-inflated and self-serving figures from the music industry.

Against that background, I have a suggestion.

Given that the UK government seems happy for huge sums of money to be spent on this fool's errand, why not spend it more effectively, in a way that sustains businesses, rather than penalising them, and which actually encourages people not to download copyrighted material from unauthorised sources?

This can be done quite simply: by giving everyone who wants it a free Spotify Premium subscription. These normally cost £120 per year, but buying a national licence for the 10 million families or so who are online would presumably garner a generous discount - say, of 50% - bringing the total price of the scheme to around £600 million, pretty much the expected cost of the current plans.

As I can attest, once you get the Spotify Premium habit, you really don't want to bother with downloading files and managing them: having everything there, in the cloud, nicely organised, is just *so* convenient (well, provided you don't lose your connection). I'm sure that my scheme would lead to falls in the levels of file sharing that the government is looking for; and anyway, it could hardly be worse than the proposals in the Digital Economy bill.

Update: On Twitter, Barbara Cookson suggested a clever tweak to this idea: "absolution for ISPs who include #spotify as part of package". Nice.

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11 comments:

Peter said...

I have another suggestion. Legalize file sharing. Wouldn't that be simpler?

glyn moody said...

@Peter: it would indeed. Just one problem: the industry - and hence the government - would never do it. They might accept a completely roundabout approch, as suggested.

The Mad Hatter said...

It makes too much sense. No government would do something so sensible.

Yeah, I'm a cynic.

Anonymous said...

What have you got against that wise and modest monarch, King Canute, that you libel him by comparing him to the Government?

Nicholas Bohm

glyn moody said...

@anon: you're right, it was lazy writing, but I wanted to convey the idea quickly. Apologies to King Knut's memory...

Anonymous said...

Good idea but what about books, films etc ?

glyn moody said...

At the moment, there are no services comparable to Spotify for videos or books, but I predict that there will be in the not-too-distant future. The same principle could then be applied.

Leslie P. Polzer said...

Uh, you want a Spotify UK monopoly?

glyn moody said...

@Leslie: no, I want to provoke some thought...

Martin Budden said...

Although the cost to consumers of the government proposals to address illicit file sharing is an important argument against those proposals, I don't think it "plumbs new depths". The worst aspect of the proposals is that they bypass the legal process and put Judge Dredd like powers into the hands of the Secretary of State. Once the Secretary of State has powers to cut of internet access, you can be sure that those powers will be used to silence those who voice inconvenient opinions. (If you don't believe this, then look at how powers created to "combat terrorism" have been used for all sorts of non-terrorism related activities.) See my posts:

http://martinbudden.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/illicit-p2p-file-sharing-and-the-law/

http://martinbudden.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/consultation-on-legislation-to-address-illicit-p2p-file-sharing-my-response/

glyn moody said...

@Martin: no, you're right, the financial aspect isn't the worst. What I meant was that irrespective of the appalling implications for liberty and due process, it couldn't *even* be justified by appealing to some utilitarian economic argument. It just doesn't make sense at *any* level.

Thanks for the links: it's good to see others trying to get the word out about this foolish legislation.