The Information Society for None

Free the Mind has blogged about the report Cultural industries in the context of the Lisbon strategy [PDF] being discussed in the European Parliaments Committee on Culture and Education.

Article 9 in the report attempts to address online piracy and should be seen as a step in the right direction. The authors have reached the understanding that …criminalising consumers so as to combat digital piracy is not the right solution.

However the committee members did not agree with this and several of them have submitted proposals for changes [PDF]. The most serious is the proposal from Christopher Hilton-Hearris. His proposal will force Internet providers into action and to close the accounts of those caught violating others copyright:

This cooperation of Internet service providers should include the use of filtering technologies to prevent their networks being used to infringe intellectual property, the removal from the networks or the blocking of content that infringes intellectual property, and the enforcement of their contractual terms and conditions, which permit them to suspend or terminate their contracts with those subscribers who repeatedly or on a wide scale infringe intellectual property

He even proposes that the EU-Commission launch pro intellectual property campaigns to the general public and as a subject in schools. He is not alone in his suggestion to cut off Internet supply to those involved in copyright violations. The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy has recommended the Committee for Culture and Education to:

Calls on the internet service providers to cooperate in the fight against internet piracy and enforce their contractual terms and conditions or terminate contracts with subscribers who infringe intellectual property rights. Internet service providers should apply filtering measures to prevent copyright and stop existing infringements

Photo hear hear by massdistraction

This is an extremely simplistic and naive approach to the problem of copyright violation in digital environments.

Now that politicians are actively attempting to shut down connections the dream of creating an inclusive society based upon a technological infrastructure (for example Information Society for All) seems to be on its way out.

Why is banning people from the Internet a bad idea?

The Internet has been promoted and become our most basic communications infrastructure (obviously my focus here is Europe since this is where the proposal is being discussed).

1. The punishment does not fit the crime: We have changed the way Banks, Post Offices, ticket sales, hotel booking, insurance (etc, etc) work and banning someone from the Internet will be tantamount to branding a symbol of guilt onto the person. Not to mention the increased costs involved in time and money. Indeed why should copyright violation prevent me from online banking?

2. Group punishment: If an Internet connection is involved in copyright violation this does not mean that all those dependent upon that connection should be punished. The actual violator may be underage or the network may be open to others.

3. Privatizing the law: The ability to punish copyright violators should not be delegated to private bodies. Internet providers are not equipped to mete out legal punishments.

The proposals seen above are simplistic, naive and dangerous they show a fundamental lack of understanding not only of technology or its role in society but also a lack of understanding of the role of communication in a democratic society. The actions of the politicians proposing such measures show that they are not acting in the interests of the individuals they are there to serve.

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