The European Commission has just released a Communication addressing the issues surrounding copyright and intellectual propoerty rights, one of the biggest questions facing all who want the EU and its citizens to embrace the many opportunities that the internet brings.
The Communication is ambitious. This is good. This is a huge area and it will take a great deal of ambition to sort it out. The aim is to get some kind of coherency across the EU in regard to copyright and intellectual property laws. At the moment the law is so fragmented across member states that it leaves rights holders and consumers in a difficult position.
Since a Commission Communication sets out the main points to be dealt with prior to legislation, we shall have to wait for the various directives to see the details of the commission’s proposals. However, I think what most people will be focussing on is the thorny issue of enforcement.
I was interested to see that the Communication specifically mentions Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the section on enforcement. The report says:
“Any amendments should have as their objective tackling the infringements at their source and, to that end, foster cooperation of intermediaries, such as internet service providers, while being compatible with the goals of broadband policies and without prejudicing the interests of end consumers.”
In the UK we will shortly be requiring ISPs to start warning then blocking people who continually illegally download content. They already have to block access to websites that contain child abuse images. We will have to wait till 2012 to see the details of this particular EU proposal, but if our experience in Britain is anything to go by then we can expect the ISPs will resist any attempt to compel them to enforce these laws. They certainly lobbied us hard over the report that attempted to get them to block child pornography across Europe.
Since ISPs can make a very important contribution to the discussion, I hope that they can recognise that the role at they have to play in the fight against piracy.