Please Respond Now to Biased IPRED Consultation

Yesterday I mentioned the important consultation on IPRED, how it was closing soon, and what a good idea it would be if you applied to take part immediately. I also noted there's a helpful guide to filling in the consultation, from EDRI, but I omitted to mention that there is an equally great one from the Pirate Party MEP Amelia Andersdotter, which I thoroughly recommend.

Just to remind you, you need to apply to on this page in order to receive a link to an online form that will let you participate. Here's what I've submitted to the questions found there: since many of my answers are short, I've summarised groups of them in what follows.

The first section asks about you, and in particular whether you hold any intellectual monopolies. Since copyright is automatic once a creative work is fixed, I'd say it's probably impossible not to hold intellectual monopolies: pretty much every time you write something down, copyright is applied to the content or the arrangement or the design of the letters. That's part of the problem with copyright: you can't turn it off.

The second section looks at civil proceedings in the case of infringement. My responses hinged on the fact that I believe the key issue is attribution, not infringement. In the online world, reputation is what sustains business models, and that requires correct attribution. However, trying to enforce attribution with legal action is not the best way; instead, community norms are crucial here.

Next, the questionnaire wants us to consider how easy it should be to get hold of the personal details of those alleged to infringed. The whole tenor of this section is to suggest that ISPs should be come the private police force for the copyright industry. In my reply, I pointed out that we already have police who are paid to do that, and that ISPs are simply providing communication services.

A further section pushes for disconnection on accusation: but the very questions note that these are alleged infringements, and it is outrageous that the EU wants to attack civil liberties by bringing in the principle of guilty until proven innocent. Although IPRED is nominally about "commercial scale" infringement, we've seen in ACTA how vague that term can be, and the fear has to be that function creep would cause new measures to be deployed against members of the public too.

This is an extremely biased "consultation" that is clearly geared to coming up with the "right" answer: that we desperately need much stronger enforcement of copyright, and much harsher punishments to stop these wicked filesharers who are ripping the heart out of the creative industries in Europe. What a pity, then, that the European Commission's own research suggests that view this is exactly wrong:

Perhaps surprisingly, our results present no evidence of digital music sales displacement. While we find important cross country differences in the effects of downloading on music purchases, our findings suggest a rather small complementarity between these two music consumption channels. It seems that the majority of the music that is consumed illegally by the individuals in our sample would not have been purchased if illegal downloading websites were not available to them. The complementarity effect of online streaming is found to be somewhat larger, suggesting a stimulating effect of this activity on the sales of digital music.

Taken at face value, our findings indicate that digital music piracy does not displace legal music purchases in digital format. This means that although there is trespassing of private property rights (copyrights), there is unlikely to be much harm done on digital music revenues.


our findings suggest that digital music piracy should not be viewed as a growing concern for copyright holders in the digital era. In addition, our results indicate that new music consumption channels such as online streaming positively affect copyrights owners.

If the European Commission truly wishes to update IPRED for the digital environment we have today, it would do well to take into account that finding, and many others like it, rather than using the doubtless negative comments from the copyright industry to justify bringing in an even more disproportionate directive that will only serve to alienate more people from copyright – and the European Union.

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