Thursday, 4 August 2011

Downloading in the news

Downloading has been one of the main themes of the past few days - first with the Newzbin judgment, now with the government making new announcements about how the Digital Economy Act will work.

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and Others v British Telecommunications Plc [2011] EWHC 1981 does not, you will observe, actually involve Newzbin. That's because after an earlier case Newzbin, an internet search facility dedicated to movies, did a spot of restructuring and reappeared outside the jurisdiction. For the copyright owners, it became a matter of going after the ISPs, the only people in the equation who they could bring to court.

As my good friend Jane Lambert, who at one stage represented Newzbin, has written the case up in some detail, I won't say it all again: her blog is here. Does this judgment solve the problem? Hardly. It seems to require the use of technology that is not yet available, which as another friend, Simon Halberstam of Kingsley Napley, notes is like declaring open season for a few months - everyone who feels moved to do so will be downloading illegal copies while they can. Simon asks why the movie industry can't work out how to use the technology, in the way that the record industry (what seems to be generally called the music industry, though I can't conceive of music, as opposed to recordings of it, as being an industrial product) has, and a good question that is too. The Internet is designed to be resilient, and it can be expected to evolve and circumvent restrictions.

Undaunted, the government has now told us that recipients of notices under the Digital Economy Act 2010 will have to stump up £20 if they want to appeal. They'll get it back if they succeed. Wow. Given how mass enforcement exercises like the one that got two Davenport Lyons partners (one no longer with the firm) fined and suspended from practice, and led to the demise of the absurdly trendily named ACS:Law, have shown just how inaccurate information about who is downloading what from the Internet, this looks like an most unwelcome imposition.

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