Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Vote Pirate!: Pirate Party UK issues it's manifesto

The Pirate Party have now launched their manifesto for the forthcoming UK elections.  There are LOTS of good stuff on the list - including tackling many of the UKs biggest shortfalls in building a free and fair society for the digital age....  in the areas of privacy, surveillance, data protection and intellectual property. It's a manifesto aimed at protecing and strengthening the rights of the individual.

Here is the shortform version..

"We will give the public the following new rights:
  • The right to share files provided no money changes hands.
  • The right to format shift and time shift data. 
  • The right of access to government funded data. 
  • The right to compensation for government data loss. 
  • The right to safely encrypt private data. 
  • The right to apply to a court for compensation where data protection laws have been broken.  
  • The right for constituents to force a by-election. 
  • The right to pay only for the fraction of the claimed broadband speed that an ISP actually delivers. 
  • The right to be a whistleblower. 
  • The right for photographers and filmmakers to go about their business without persecution under anti-terror laws.
  • The right for disabled people to demand an unrestricted version of DRM protected content where that is necessary to allow them to access it.
We will reform outdated laws:
  • We will abolish drug patents, replacing them with subsidies. 
  • We will reduce the length of copyright to 10 years. 
  • We will provide exemptions to patent law for non-commercial use, personal study and academic research. 
  • We will introduce system of compulsory patent licensing
  • We will reform libel law.
  • We will prohibit the abuse of RIPA powers.
  • We will remove loopholes in copyright and patent law.
We will protect the public from abuses of new technology: 
  • We will forbid third parties from intercepting or monitoring communication traffic
  • We will introduce a mandatory warning label on products that include DRM.
  • We will introduce laws on the acceptable use of CCTV and DNA samples.
  • We will legislate in favour of net neutrality.
  • We will introduce stronger data protection laws
  • We will not allow government censorship of the internet
  • We will put into action the government's Open Source Action Plan.
  • We will require the BBC to release all their content under a Creative Commons licence.
  • We will prevent the BBC from using DRM technology.
  • We will ensure better computing education in schools."
Piratpartiet &; The Pirate Party -  Make your voice heard.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Seeing what you want to see. The ICC Digital Economy report.

Thirty two billion euros and six hundred thousand jobs by 2015.  Those are the losses due to piracy projected by the ICC report "Building a Digital Economy".  Scary stuff...

The report is interesting reading but not totally convincing.  If it were a climate report it's the type of publication that would have climate sceptics baying for blood.  I'll give some comment here and if you want  more analysis read on at  Technollamna, Tumbled Logic, and Open....   Overall the authors I think have done a good job of setting out what they have done, and importantly what they have assumed - and in that sense it's a valuable input to the debate that bears study.

My first and biggest problem with the report is that it sets out to evaluate the damage done by piracy - and as such finds the result it is looking for.  It isn't a holistic view of the economy and doesn't consider balancing factors - like increased bandwidth usage from non-commercial sharing stimulating the telecoms sector.

The basic premise of the report is that the creative industries and supporting sectors are a major part of the economy and are at serious risk from piracy.  They then present figures that show that piracy as they evaluate it amounts to around a 2% of creative industry value.  Noticeable but not at a level that supports the premise that piracy is killing creativity.  Moreover, they include in their assessments non core industry sectors like paper production (and production of physical recording media) which are much more at risk from the rise of the digital economy than they are from piracy.

They then evaluate piracy losses based on two scenarios - one based on forecast growth of file sharing traffic (+18% p.a) - and the other based on overall growth of consumer IP traffic (+24% p.a).  This second scenario, professionally speaking, I consider pure fantasy as consumer IP traffic is likely to be driven by legitimate online and IP-TV rather than an explosive growth in piracy. 
Both scenarios miss an important element in a holistic view - which is the consumer's ability to pay.  Predictions of traffic growth are based on significant reductions in cost per bit.  There is no assumption that consumers are prepared to pay 18-24% per year more for bandwidth - and there clearly is no rationale to think that the value of pirated content conversion to legitimate sales would rise at those rates either. 

Put another way - the study assumes a constant percentage of pirated content is lost revenues.  Households don't have limitless pockets though, so realistically if content piracy increases the hypothetical conversion is likely to fall. Without some validation of what consumer spending trends are for entertainment content the numbers given are just wishful thinking.

In fact, Tumbled Logic suggests why current trends on Torrent downloading could mean conversion of downloads to sales could be as low as 0,5% - which would cut the estimates in this study by a huge 95%.  Assumptions are crucial in reaching a trustworthy result.....

Next we hear how piracy is having huge impacts on the music industry and that reductions in physícal disc sales have collapsed and that piracy must be to blame.  This is supposition not supported by the evidence...  There is clear evidence that revenues from live performances have substantially increased and that the total music industry revenues including these are stable - and further evidence that shows that there is a switch in buying behaviour from music and other passive media to games - a sector that shows significant growth.  Less piracy may have inhibited that shift to live performance and games, but where's the evidence that less piracy would grow the overall available market?

Again, unless a study can substantiate a growth in consumer spending on media over and above existing levels (with for instance cinema attendances at record levels) how can you project huge losses?  Here in lies the rub.... as a consumer if I spend more on music, or TV or video, then I spend less on something else.  So just where is the economy going to be hit if consumers are buying all their content instead of taking a share online?

Lastly, in this whistlestop critique, is the figures for lost jobs quoted...  the hypothesis is that if we increase sales on video 'X' we have more money to employ more people and to create more content.  But is that a realistic view?  Media companies want to maximise their profits, not maximise their output -  and at the end of the day consumers have a finite budget and a finite amount of time to consume content.  Is it a given that higher sales will generate employment? Better sales per production could even have the opposite effect... we don't need to create as many films/songs to generate our sales (and profit) targets - so why dilute the market by creating more content?

Seek.. and you shall find.  But don't believe everything you read!

Piratpartiet &; The Pirate Party -  Make your voice heard.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

ACTA under fire at the EU Parliament

There have been rumblings for some time at the EU Parliament about the negotiations on the ACTA counterfeiting and trade negotiations.  Parliament doesn't like being told they are not allowed to see what the negotiators are agreeing on their behalf and for the benefit or otherwise of Europe's citizens.

Now the decks are cleared and the cannons rolled out and the parliamentarians are taking action.  Christian Engström, Piratpartiet's MEP is one of the movers behind a motion that in fine words tells the Commission to stop fannying around and put all their cards on the table.  Pointing out among other things that
 "the Commission has since the 1 December 2009 the legal obligation to immediately and fully inform the European Parliament at all stages of international negotiations"

But it's not just an armlock to get visibility of what the negotiators are up to - the motion goes further, and places concrete limitations on what the negotiators can sign up for.

"..no to three-strikes Hadopi-type legislation, and no to searches of laptops, cell phones and other digital devices at the borders by customs officers".

Representation in parliament.  Isn't it wonderful.  Voting on the motion is today... though it sounds like it has broad cross party support which sounds promising.

All quotes from Christian's blog.

(PS: life's kind of busy right now... so blogging is on a bit of a low tide.)