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P2P, filesharing and digital rights

21 November, 2005
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IPJustice organised another panel on P2P, filesharing and digital rights on 17 November 2005, with Robin Gross as moderator.

The first speaker was the Canadian law professor Michael Geist, also editor of the excellent daily newsletter BNA's Internet Law News. He started by telling that a few months ago IFPI had sued 2.200 people in 17 countries for filesharing, but none in Canada, and proceeded to speculate why that is. He explained Canadian laws are different. There is no DMCA equivalent and Canada hasn't ratified the relevant WIPO treaties. Furthermore Canadian policymakers are increasingly recognising the need for copyright reform instead of swallowing all the content industry's claims.

Markus Beckedahl of Netzerk Neue Median (and EDRI) spoke about the situation in Germany and in particular the implementation of the European Copyright Directive. He listed five key rights consumers should have: -right to choice of technology (principle of technology-neutrality); -right to benefit of new technologies without new restrictions; -right to interoperability of content; -right to privacy, and the -right not to be criminalised (everyone has always shared music, why does it become criminal when digital?).

Heather Ford of Creative Commons South Africa told of efforts to find alternatives to copyright in Africa, about fighting against misleading assumptions and simplifications like "p2p = downloading music, downloading music is bad and illegal. Therefore p2p should be banned", whereas in reality downloading music is not always illegal and p2p is very useful for other purposes, too, especially in low-bandwidth situations. She explained the most pressing issue in Africa isn't so much downloading but VoIP and its threat to telecom monopolies, and told a weird story about a music remix service they had started (with voluntary contributions by musicians) and how RISA (South African RIAA-equivalent) had threatened them for making people think remixing music is legal (!). Also, her university had summarily blocked skype and all mp3 files even though they have legitimate uses, too. She finished by noting that p2p is not the same everywhere. Since it is used for many purposes, the technology should not be demonised.

A discussion followed on a wide range of issues, including the infamous Sony rootkit, how p2p works with free and open software (very well) and about using IP addresses to sue people. The only downside of the panel was the lack of dissenting voices. No copyright industry representative had bothered (or dared?) to show up.

Information about the P2P panel
http://www.ipjustice.org/WSIS/P2P_panel.shtml

BNA's Internet Law News
http://ecommercecenter.bna.com

(Contribution by Tapani Tarvainen, EDRI-member EFFI Finland)

 

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