Sunday, 6 December 2009

Standards of justice - rights, wrongs and copyright infringement

Non-commercial copying of copyrighted maerial is a long established practice - covering everything from sharing recipes, photo copying course notes and taping material from the TV or radio.  What has changed in recent years is not that it happens - rather, that technology has made it easier to do -while at the same time technology makes it practical in many instances to see that it is happening.

What is legal - and how infringement is addressed - differ in different countries.  In Britain (as I understand it) it's still an infringement of copyright to copy your LPs onto tape - or your CDs onto your media server. As for making a compilation from your records collection to give to your girlfriend....  Hots coals and the lash await...

Enforcement is the proof of the pudding - putting individuals in the firing line for having shared copyrighted material.

This week has seen two interesting court cases in Sweden.  First a court in Södertorn decided that Telia Sonera were obliged to hand over details of who runs the Torrent search engine SweTorrents to Antipiratbyrån - a lobby and enforcement organisation for the media industry.  The judgement included in it's rationale both that SweTorrents had a large number of copyright works uploaded onto the site - and that  the site has been used to download material.  

Now it's hard for me to comment on whether providing a search engine counts as abetting copyright infringement under the letter of the current law....  but those aren't legal judgements - they are matters of fact.  It's a search engine.. there are no files on the site to download - and nor can you upload to the site...  so if that's the basis of the judgement it's a pretty dodgy one.  No surprise then that Rick Falkvinge pulls it apart in an article that argues that information politics and it's importance for economic development are too important to leave media industry lobbyists to set the agenda.

Another judgement came this week - this one from the Swedish High Court - saying that broadband operator Portlane is not required to shut off access for a tracker site, Opentorrent.   Here they stated 
"För att medverka till upphovsrättsintrång krävs mer av en mellanhand "än tillhandahållande av en internetaccess".
" in order to contribute to copyright infringement an intermediary needs to do more than provide an internet access".

This judgement is interesting to contrast with the the current proposals in the UK's proposed Digital Economy Bill which will put specific responsibilities onto operators for policing copyright.  And notwithstanding the lack of technical knowledge shown in the first case - both cases show considerably more interest in the individuals rights and a just process than we see in the UKs current legal and political arena .

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Working for copyright reform.

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