29 January 2010

EU's Gallo Report: Rubbish Recycled

I've noted several times an increasingly popular trope of the intellectual monopolists: since counterfeiting is often linked with organised crime, and because counterfeiting and copyright infringement are vaguely similar, it follows as surely as night follows day that copyright infringement is linked with organised crime.

Well, that apology of an argument is now being recycled in the draft of the Gallo Report [.pdf], "on enhancing the enforcement of intellectual property rights in the internal market," from the Committee on Legal Affairs of the European Parliament:

there are proven connections between various forms of organised crime and IPR infringements, in particular counterfeiting and piracy

Well, maybe between organised crime and counterfeiting, but I challenge anyone to provide evidence that it's linked to infringements of copyright ("piracy").

This is not the only example of a lazy and totally biased reuse of old arguments employed by the content companies. Earlier in the document we find a similar parroting of the inaccurate statements put about by industries dependent on intellectual monopolies:

violations of intellectual property rights (IPR), defined as any violation of any IPR, such as copyright, trade marks, designs or patents, constitute a genuine threat not only to consumer health and safety but also to our economies and societies

*Counterfeiting* can certainly be a threat to consumer health and safety, and needs to be combated vigorously, but the idea that copyright infringement might be is simply risible, and it's an insult to our intelligence even to suggest it.

innovation and creativity have considerable added value for the European economy and, taking account of the economic context, they should be preserved and developed

Well, yes, but they are quite separate from the enforcement of intellectual monopolies, I'm afraid.
the phenomenon of on-line piracy has assumed very alarming proportions, particularly for the creative content industries, and whereas the existing legal framework has proven incapable of effectively protecting rights-holders on the Internet and the balance between all the interests at stake, including those of consumers

There is no balance whatsoever: the original 14-year term of copyright is now life plus 70 years in many jurisdictions: the consumers are *never* considered in any of this. This claim is totally one-sided in favour of the monopolists.

The report even stoops to the level of advocating brainwashing the young, when it

Stresses the need to educate young people to enable them to understand what is at stake in intellectual property and to identify clearly what is legal and what is not, by means of targeted public awareness campaigns, particularly against on-line piracy

What it means, of course, is that it wants to bully them into accepting the lazy, arrogant, monopolists' view that they are entitled to their old business models, that nobody is allowed to innovate around digital content, and that the little people like you and me should learn to shut up.

All-in-all, this is one of the most disgraceful pieces of work I have ever seen from the European Parliament: a true blot on the otherwise laudable record it has of defending the rights of the European public that elected it. If it wants to retain its credibility with the latter it should reject this load of nonsense and start again.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.


Anonymous said...

The content that organized crime groups use to make their DVDs etc comes from topsites. This is evidenced by the fact that counterfeit DVDs go for sale on the streets only hours after initial uploading to topsites. It would therefore seem a strong possibility that topsites knowingly sell access to their illegal content to organized crime groups. Since this all goes on in secret all we can say is that there is a close relationship, probably a commercial relationship. Further investigation is warranted. I don't think it should be quickly dismissed.

Glyn Moody said...

@hugo: well, two assumptions there: that they *do* come from "topsites" and not insiders for example, and that it is "knowingly" (and do they "sell" their access? I don't really know much about these "topsites" - first time I've come across the term). I'd need to see proof before I'd buy the convenient equation the monopolists push.

Anonymous said...

Glyn - I too would like to see a lot more investigation of the relationship between topsites and their clients. When I refer to topsites, I'm referring principally to The Scene (see for example http://www.p2presource.com/ftp/guidetoscenetoday.html). It is worth bearing in mind, however, that The Scene has various strata - some of them a lot scarier than others.

Glyn Moody said...

@hugo: OK, now I understand better. I think the key point is this (from that article):

"The scene today has change dramatically, mainly because the difference in which we use computers and the internet compared to 20 years ago. Rather than being friends sharing files for the love of it, it’s a large scale business. The scene rapidly deteriorated from a set of low key private networks to a vast industry of illegal file sharing servers."

I call this organised crime - it's specifically *not* what I'm talking about, which *is* friends sharing files for the love of it.

And that's the key distinction: if it's a business, then clearly it's a kind of counterfeiting, and should be pursued as such; if it's just friends, then it shouldn't be hit with the same laws - which is *precisely* what ACTA proposes.

That's why the blurring of the distinction is wrong, and why ACTA is a con-trick.

Unknown said...


Several points,

1) You are making an inference about the source of counterfeited material based on release time, which may not be accurate.

2) You are also making the claim that topsites are commercial, which is an argument that has been made before, however no one has ever shown solid proof of this (which is not to say that there isn't some money involved, but how much?)

3) What if the topsites aren't selling access, but are just being used? I understand that there has been considerable conflict between The Scene and torrent sites in the past.

4) Considering the lack of information, I don't think that we can say anything for sure.

A long time ago I knew some people who were peripherally involved with The Scene. At that time it was mainly software focused, and one of the methods of transferring stuff was running 100 Megabyte (yes - megabyte) hard drives from city to city using commercial carriers. Microsoft and all of the software companies were screaming about the huge profits being made by people in The Scene selling software. Problem was, no one was selling anything, they were giving it away.

So I tend to take all of these allegations that there's tons of money involved in being in The Scene with a grain of salt. Quite frankly if there was money involved, it would be a heck of a lot easier to track them down - following the money isn't that hard!