The All Party Parliamentary Communications Group apComms, a group created to provide discussion between the communications industry and British Parliamentarians, released a report on Thursday that is the culmination of an inquiry into what role government should play in filtering the Internet, online privacy and regulation in behavioral advertising services. Although the report provides only suggestions, the importance of the debate means it is worth noting. Government intervention in the fight against piracy could have important, long-term effects on both public policy and business practices, and it could provide a case study for other countries deciding how to deal with digital piracy.
The report (download the 46-page PDF here) reads like a really long blog post – many excerpts and some original content. The report goes through the questions it posed to stakeholders, offers sections of submissions to present the various viewpoints, and then presents the committee’s conclusions. The five questions posted by apComms asked for direction on such issues as how ISPs should handle illegal content, whether or not government should regulate behavioral advertising, and if net neutrality principals should be made into law. apComms received submissions from the likes of the British Recorded Music Industry, Mobile Broadband Group, Motion Picture Association, British Telecom, AT&T, Internet Watch Foundation, Virgin Media and Skype.
The following excerpt of the report is the one that most applies to the music industry. In it, apComms blames the industry for much of its file-sharing problem and argues against disconnecting end users.
We conclude that much of the problem with illegal sharing of copyrighted material has been caused by the rightsholders, and the music industry in particular, being far too slow in getting their act together and making popular legal alternatives available.
We do not believe that disconnecting end users is in the slightest bit consistent with policies that attempt to promote eGovernment, and we recommend that this approach to dealing with illegal file-sharing should not be further considered.
In a response at Music Week, BPI said it has called for “temporary account suspension,” not “disconnection.”
Note apComms’ use of the word “popular.” It recognizes that legal alternatives are available but implies they are not adequate substitutes for illegal options. Translation: legal alternatives are not “popular” because the industry is not giving people what they want. This begs the questions, What do people have against current legal alternatives, what does it take for a legal alternative to become adequately popular, and at what point does government decide businesses are exhausting all attempts to provide popular alternatives?
More on the apComms report can be read at The Register, where Andrew Orlowski focused on the reports’ call for “nanny filters.”