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ENDitorial: Belgian music industry acts to undermine copyright law

19 October, 2011

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: ENDitorial: Belgische Musikindustrie versucht Urheberrecht zu untergraben

We have all heard the music industry make claims about the vast amount of "piracy" going on, such as the estimation that from 2008 to 2015, the music industry was going to lose an amount equivalent to the combined national debt of Greece and Italy. The ever-impartial European Commission has been similarly apocalyptic in its analysis of the situation - describing illegal filesharing as "ubiquitous" in its report on application of the IPR Enforcement Directive. The question is, under such circumstances where any law has lost its legitimacy to such an extent that breaches are "ubiquitous," when losses are allegedly more than what entire countries produce in a whole year, what is the one thing that must be avoided at all costs? One must avoid robbing the law of any residual credibility that it still has.

After being caught by a TV station trying to obtain royalties for the music apparently produced by noodles, sauces, foodmixers and hygiene products, Sabam, the Belgian collecting society, decided to put the blame where it clearly belongs - the Internet. Despite the fact that it is well known that DNS blocking does not work, despite the fact that The Pirate Bay reported an increase in traffic from Denmark when DNS blocking was proposed there, Sabam decided to waste the Belgian courts' time and Belgian taxpayers' money with a demand that and a number of related domains be blocked by the two largest Internet access providers in Belgium. The request was granted by the Court in Antwerp.

A few hours after the court, in full awareness of the futility of the order, made this decision, Belgian "pirates" created in order to circumvent the blocking order. The new domain name allows users to reach The Pirate Bay via an indirect and unblocked route. Unsurprisingly, the ridiculous ease with which the ruling was exposed as nonsense attracted a huge amount of publicity - serving both to make the law and law-makers look absurd and maximise awareness of opportunities for unauthorised access to copyrighted material online.

Legitimacy of laws cannot ever be imposed by repressive measures. Legitimacy most certainly cannot be imposed by repressive measures which are comically ineffective. As long as the Internet retains the characteristics which are the basis of its success - openness and resilience - content cannot be definitively blocked. It is time to abandon measures that place creators and users in opposition to each other, time to abandon policies that serve only to illustrate the lack of understanding of the Internet by certain parts of industry and politicians and time to build a legal framework that earns respect and facilitates creation.

IFPI losses 2008-2015 (20.01.2011)

National debts (7.04.2011)

European Commission IPRED implementation report (22.12.2010)

SABAM's questionable royalty claims (09.02.2011)

Sabam Video

(contribution by Joe McNamee - EDRi)



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