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The end of the free internet in Britain?


1:00 pm - November 20th 2009

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contribution by by Charlotte Gore

If we can’t stop this, it’s beginning of the end for the net in Britain

That’s what Cory Doctorow suggests when reporting the news that Mandelson is seeking to use a back door to grant himself powers that grant him yet more powers to do just about anything in the interest of protecting Copyright.

It’s terrifying stuff that, if he’s successful, will cripple Britain’s technological progress. I use a programme called, “Drop Box” and it allows me to transfer files from my MacBook to my PC using the Internet. I don’t want such files to be publicly available because they’re my own personal private files.

But Mandelson wants these services to disable privacy modes so that Movie Studios can check I’m not stealing from them. Forcing us to make the contents of our online storage public is just one of the powers Mandelson wants to gift himself, unchallenged.

In addition to other powers he could have if he gets his way is the ability to demand ISPs turn over their records and of course the infamous threat to ban households from the internet if they’re suspected of copyright infringement.

It’s all in the name of Copyright theft – otherwise known as ‘Mandelson’s extremely rich friends’. It’s crony capitalism, favouritism and economic and social planning all rolled into one horrible, toxic bomb.

Whether or not Mandelson could actually succeed in wiping out Copyright theft on the internet is academic (he can’t, as it happens, no matter what he tries). What he can do is condemn Britain to a sort of internet dark age where technology is held back if it’s a threat to the vested interests Mandelson represents.

He wants access to these powers without debate or scrutiny, and that he wants to be able to wield the powers without debate or scrutiny. He MUST be stopped, This MUST not be allowed. Your Twitter Hashtag to go mental on is #webwar.

The Guardian covers the story from the point of view of what the Tories could do with these same powers. If that’s what it takes to stop it, that’s fine – but in and of itself – what he’s already planning to do with it – are more than bad enough to be utterly terrifying.

This is a guest post by Charlotte Gore. Charlotte blogs here.

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Reader comments


But Mandelson wants these services to disable privacy modes so that Movie Studios can check I’m not stealing from them.

You missed out the important clarification “rabid conspiriloon Cory Doctorow claims, without any evidence, that” between “but” and “Mandelson”. HTH.

Mandelson on the side of crony capitalism, this just doesn’t make any sense. Didn’t Iain Dale call him the number one leftwing person in the country, in a piece for the telegraph last month. Dale wouldn’t slack on perfectionism and good research would he now?

Clarification @1, the new law would be a Bad Thing, but it wouldn’t do the things Doctorow says it would. Rather, it’d give UK rights-holders the same power the DCMA currently confers on US rights-holders. I

don’t think that’s necessary – my views on copyright are on record – but to say that making the UK’s regime comparable to the US’s will cripple our technological progress is the kind of batshit loonery that’s more normally expressed by Dan Hannan about the EU, or by David Icke about the lizard-people.

@2, remember that to the Tory right “leftwing” means “someone I either don’t approve of or pretend not to approve of”, hence encompasses everyone from Stalin, Hitler, Nick Griffin, Tony Blair and Genghis Khan through to Michael Heseltine…

“Your Twitter Hashtag to go mental on is #webwar.”

I haven’t the remotest clue how I would act on this, but I delight in the phrase and wish the webwarriors against Darth Vader Mandelson all the very best. I’m sure you will win, and it will be a pleasure to observe from the sidelines as Mandy goes down & out in flames.

5. Donut Hinge Party

*It’s all in the name of Copyright theft – otherwise known as ‘Mandelson’s extremely rich friends’. It’s crony capitalism, favouritism and economic and social planning all rolled into one horrible, toxic bomb.*

I went to Athena the other day with a hand held scanner, scanned in copies of the new Cheryl Cole calendar and set up shop flogging them at 20p a pop.

Then Mandelson’s fascist capitalist cronies had the cheek to have a go at me!

Tomorrow, I’m going to try selling printouts of Charlotte Gore’s blog to people – the only hitch is that they have to listen to me trying to sell Marmite to them, first. Of course, I have no intention of providing Charlotte with a penny of this revenue. In fact, I might knock her name off it and claim it’s all my own work.

DHP – I am sure you are welcome to it. In a free society, you will become quickly known as a twat, and face reputational damage for it. Think about stand-up comedy. You can’t copyright a joke (or at least it is very difficult), and yet there isn’t any lack of jokes, people willing to tell them and people willing to pay professional to hear them. Comedians who steal other people’s jokes (like Jim Davidson) become known as twats.

7. Donut Hinge Party

“You will become quickly known as a twat, and face reputational damage for it”

Don’t throw me into that briar patch, Brer Wolf!

Seriously, though, what you seem to be suggesting is that the only options open to the music and film industry should be the routes they’re taking, such as the whole “Knock Off Nigel” and “You wouldn’t steal a car,” campaigns, both of which are generally red rags to a bull, and turn every spotty abuser of Utorrent into Matthew Broderick hacking the pentagon and sticking it to the Man in their puny little minds.

At the end of the day, use of the Internet IS a privilege, not a fundamental human right, like driving a car on the roads; it’s an infrastructure which costs to maintain and police – and the government are more than happy to stop you driving on roads if you start acting like a twat.

@Carl: the important word being ‘crony’: success is made to be dependent on political contacts in the government, rather than on ability to provide a valued service in a free and open market. Now, of the two, which is more likely to view government influence in the economy as a good thing, and which is less likely to use the rhetoric of free markets: ‘left’ or ‘right’?

Crony capitalism may be a sin of the right, but it’s a policy of the left.

There is another option open to the music and film industries – to go the way of buggy whip manufacturers and professional scribes. They have existed and thrived for a short time, and only because of the combination of (a) high costs of production and distribution, and (b) extremely high barriers to entry. Music will once again become something people do rather than an industrial product they buy, and film will probably eventually join it. Whether you regard that as a good or bad thing is immaterial – the economic conditions which permit the existence of these industries are passing. Art, on the other hand, will persist as it always has done.

Punk was just the leading edge of the return to music as something people participate in, rather than passively consume. That was driven largely by the availability of cheap instruments. The next wave will be driven by the availability of cheap recording and distribution. Very, very few people will make much money from it, just as nobody makes much money from simply being literate any more.

10. Donut Hinge Party

But, but my buggywhips.com website has spectacular profits which are just yet to materialise.

I don’t follow your argument that UGC will be the future for film. The mass market has always liked explosions, pretty pictures, and pretty people, and they’ll always cost money, unless they’re all computer generated. No doubt there were people in the 16th century saying “Sure, you have to get patronage from a noble family and expensive paints now, but you wait twenty years and EVERYONE will be able to knock off a painting like Raphael”

Similarly to music; people like music largely because of the cultural touchstones it produces. If I want music in my own room, I can strum my guitar. (Well, Guitar Hero controller) If I wanted plays in Ancient Greece, I could have written my own – it’s just that Sophocles made a much better fist of it than me. And, seeing as he sucks in selling whips for buggies, he can’t do my job, so he had to earn a crust another way – he chose writing plays.

DHP – not at all, the current methods of distribution of music and film etc are partly endogenous to the nature of the property laws that the state has established. If you abolished those laws, the industry would simply adapt to a payment model that was compatible with a lack of property rights. Micro-patronage and voluntary societies would be major early development. Indeed, they are already used on some level.

Sure, there will always be people who are sufficiently good to be able to actually make a living at it. But my point is that you won’t need the backing of a global vertically-integrated conglomerate just to participate.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure Sophocles didn’t enjoy the benefit of modern copyright law.

What I’m objecting to is the notions that either the collapse of the music / film industries somehow implies the end of music / film itself, or that those industries have some right to be preserved in the face of changing economics.

@ John b

“@2, remember that to the Tory right “leftwing” means “someone I either don’t approve of or pretend not to approve of”, hence encompasses everyone from Stalin, Hitler, Nick Griffin, Tony Blair and Genghis Khan through to Michael Heseltine…”

Yeah, I know, lol!

DHP

Music was made long before it was possible to record it. Remember the wandering minstrel? Well maybe not but you know what I mean.

The technology that allowed music to be recorded and replayed made it possible for a major industry to prosper and, as technology has moved on, the facility to access recorded music without paying for it now threatens that industry. That happens with technology and it is necessary to adapt.

Technology, for example, has also made it possible to create an image on a digital camera without recording it on photographic film- should we make that illegal and protect the photographic film industry?

There is a strong argument that music and cinema will be more vibrant and more interesting when the grip of the corporations has been weakened. It seems to me the overall influence of the financiers was ultimately stultifying to the artists.
.

Dunc – if musicians and songwriters can’t make a living from their craft, they have to do other jobs and have less time to make music and write songs. As for films, they are expensive to make. Directors spend years chasing funds. Certainly a lot of parasites share in the profits, but the money has to come from somewhere.

As for Sophocles – he was a rich man and could work for the considerable honour and awards. Epicles, his contemporary, was equally brilliant but had to work all the hours the god sends on his smallholding as he couldn’t get a drachma for his work. (I’ve made Epicles up, by the way).

In Victorian times a big grievance was that the American market would pirate novels like those by Dickens and the author wouldn’t get a dollar. Now surely Dickens was worth his dollars while the American shysters weren’t. There has to be some copyright control over works of the imagination if the imaginers are to carry on with their work.

We have plenty of great novels from Victorian times because the authors were paid very well. No-one would embark on a huge novel like Middlemarch or Our Mutual Friend if they thought they would get five guineas for it instead of the considerable amount they earned.

16. Donut Hinge Party

The wandering minstrel might have made his own music, but we’re not talking about just nicking his sheet music here, we’re talking about the whole ball of wax. It’s the difference between busking ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and turning on a CD player with George Harrison’s version and getting money for it.

17. Richard Blogger

Don’t blame Mandelson (I can’t believe I typed that) blame Carter. It is unacceptable for Lord Carter to produce the Digital Britain report and then to piss off. Mandelson is merely parroting the second rate report that Carter produced.

It is such a disappointment. Digital Britain was a great opportunity to define the digital landscape for the future, but Carter clearly lacks the technical and sociological knowledge. His pronouncements on DAB is laughable. We are supposed to endure something based on 80s technology that most of the world has rejected, all because the government wants to sell off the FM bands. When FM sounds better than DAB (which is the case for most people) then you know that there is something wrong. Even if Carter had to keep DAB (as I suspect was the case, the BBC does not want the embarrassment of ditching this baby of theirs) he could have at least mandated a minimum bitrate (and for that matter, a minimum bitrate for DVB-T).

As to copyright violation, well a little bit of encryption (to prevent packet payload inspection) and bouncing the packets through proxies (to hide where the packet originates) will be enough to thwart any mass ISP monitoring. What Mandelson is suggesting just won’t work.

As an on-topic aside, take a look at what Tom Robinson says about iTunes on the download page of his website.

16. Well that’s a false analogy, no-one is making money from illegal file sharing….except perhaps the artists being shared. Studies show, after all, that file sharers spend more money on music than non-sharers.

19. Donut Hinge Party

Of course they are; it’s monetised content.

Pirate bay, for example, currently contains this box.

“Yes, I wish to receive discount coupons, special offers
or promotions about other products.”

That’s a captive advertising audience who pay PB handsomely for their client list; that’s why ITV charge 30K for a 30 second slot in primetime TV, and that’s through nothing but aggregating other people’s content without recompense.

@KB Player: Believe me, I’m not saying it’s necessarily good that the music industry will die, I’m just saying that it’s inevitable. However, there’s also the fact that the overwhelming majority of musicians and songwriters don’t make a living at it now. I’ve never made a single penny from it, but I’m not about to stop. Practically all of my friends make music of one sort or another, many have a few releases under their belts, but the best any of them can manage doesn’t even cover beer money. That’s the way it is for something like 99.99% of musicians and songwriters in the world today. The big trick that the industry has pulled off is to get people to focus on the 0.01% that they back and think that’s all there is.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  3. Leon Green

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  14. Kevin Dunsford

    Liberal Conspiracy » The end of the free internet in Britain?: I haven't the remotest clue how I would act .. http://tinyurl.com/yaaqj73

  15. blindasabat

    Liberal Conspiracy » The end of the free internet in Britain? http://is.gd/4ZBFR #webwar

  16. Jason C

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    End of free internet in Britian!
    http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/11/20/the-end-of-the-free-internet-in-britain/

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  29. Leon Green

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  34. Patrick Hadfield

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  35. Pamela_McLean

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