January 18, 2008 | By Danny O'Brien

Copyright Extensions and ISP Filtering: Breaking EU Culture, One Amendment at a Time

As you may recall, the European Parliament's forthcoming href="http://www.eff.org/issues/eff-europe/bono-cult-amendments">report on the
Cultural Industries has become the latest target of lobbying by the
recording industry. First, they attempted to href="http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2007/12/music-industry-europe-filter-pressure">insert
language that advocated that European ISPs filter and block their own
users on the basis of suspected infringement. As we href="http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/effeurope/NetworkFiltering.pdf">explained
to European Members of Parliament, such policies would not only harm the
privacy and security of Net users - they would not even work to combat
infringement. Like DRM, everyone would lose, including the music industry and
artists that IFPI seeks to protect.

But if ISP spying on customers and users denied access to the Net on the
hearsay of rightsholders were not bad enough, the recording industry is now href="http://www.eff.org/issues/eff-europe/bono-cult-amendments#Paragraph_9a_.28new.29">seeking
another addition (amendment 82), advocating the extension of copyright "to
protect artists who risk seeing their work fall within the public domain in
their lifetime, and to consider the competitive disadvantage posed by less
generous protection terms in Europe than in the United States".

As href="http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/openlaw/eldredvashcroft/supct/amici/economists.pdf">five
Nobel-prize winning economists including Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase and
Kenneth Arrow petitioned in href="http://eldred.cc/eldredvashcroft.html">Eldred vs. Ashcroft, and the
recent Gowers Report in the UK concluded, copyright term extension is
unjustified both as a protection
to current artists ( href="http://www.openrightsgroup.org/release-the-music-briefing-pack-html/">who rarely earn much from far future extensions), or
as an economic positive for society as a whole. Yet the music industry, fearful of losing
tight control of its own back catalog, still continues to advocate for more
copyright, no matter the cost.

The Guy Bono report is the tip of the iceberg for this kind of rightsholder
lobbying, at both a Brussels and a national level. The report has no legal
force, but by gently dropping these unfounded policy ideas into its pages and
putting them in front of politicians and civil servants, IFPI and others can
claim that they are uncontroversial, familiar solutions when the time comes to
write the real laws.

It's painful to watch an otherwise thoughtful report on the cultural
industries by the European Parliament be buried under the lobbying agenda of
the music industry - especially when its suggestions go so far against
economics and common sense. We can only hope that the committee can retrieve
the original paper from this last-minute bargaining, and keep these ridiculous
ideas on the policy fringes where they deserve to remain.


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