According to a BBC news report, it seems that a deal to tackle digital piracy is about to be realised between major UK ISPs and key content and entertainment industry organisations. Given that it took several years of wrangling to get to this point, the obvious question is whether this particular deal will work to the satisfaction of all concerned?
The report describes how the UK ISPs (i.e. BT, Sky, TalkTalk and VirginMedia) will be required to send ‘educational’ letters, or alerts, to users they believe are downloading illegal content. Among other things, the deal is predicated on the belief that increased awareness of legal alternatives will encourage such users away from illegal content acquisition, casual infringement and piracy. This voluntary alert system will be funded mainly by the content industry who in return will get monthly stats on alerts dished out by the ISPs. Overall, this deal is far removed from the more punitive “3 strikes” system originally mooted in the early days of the Digital Economy Act.
As with most cases there are 2 or more sides to the story, and below are some considerations to be taken into account before drawing your own conclusions, including:
1. Critics of this deal, i.e. presumably the content providers, will consider this too soft an approach to be effective in curbing the very real and adverse economic impact of piracy.
2. Supporters, including ISPs, will likely see this as fair compromise for securing their cooperation in tackling piracy, and a win-win for them and their customers.
3. Another perspective comprises the view of regulators and government intermediaries (aka brokers of this deal), who likely consider it a practical compromise which can always be tweaked depending on its efficacy or lack thereof.
4. There are probably many other viewpoints to be considered, but, in my opinion, the most important perspective belongs to the end-users who ultimately stand to benefit or suffer from the success or failure of this initiative, especially since:
- there is evidence that education trumps punishment when it comes to casual content piracy – e.g. the HADOPI experience in France which has effectively evolved into an educational campaign against copyright infringement.
- content consumers already have far too much choice over the source and format of content anyway, so punitive measures may not necessarily solve the piracy problem, if they can get content via other illegal means.
- any perceived failure of this deal, and its ‘educational’ approach, could lend support for more draconian and punitive measures, therefore it is in the interest of consumers to see it succeed.
5. Industrial scale piracy, on the other hand must be tackled head-on, with the full weight of the law, in order to close down and discourage the real criminal enterprises that probably do far more damage to the content industry.
In any case, regardless of how you view this and other similar developments, it is always worth bearing in mind that we are only in a period of transition to a comprehensive digital existence, therefore all current challenges and opportunities are certain to change, as new technology and usage paradigms continue to drive and reveal ever more intriguing changes in consumer behaviours. This battle is far from over.
Some time ago I wrote a post about the challenges facing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) over whether they can afford to be the police of the Internet, with respect to helping find and stop persistent abuse of content, and other illegal online activities by their users. This is still a serious issue today, particularly in light of the cloud, hence the urge to revisit that post here.
The biggest challenge then was around the growing perception of ISPs as de-facto gatekeepers of the Internet, which effectively added another layer of complexity to their traditional / core business. As a result, not only do ISPs have to deal with existing and non-trivial issues (e.g. declining markets, convergent evolution via multi-play business models, and issues around increasing broadband / bandwidth consumption), they also have to contend with the fact that:
- Content owners still want ISPs to play a more central role in preventing, detecting, monitoring and punishing illegal file sharing (e.g. via schemes like the infamous three strikes proposal).
- Various initiatives by governments around the world, such as the UK’s Digital Economy Act, are put in place to help provide much needed governance and teeth to the need for ways to monitor and combat illegal activities including copyright infringement.
- There still are also signs of lack of trust by ISP customers over service quality / charges, and potential invasion of privacy
These all add up to a severe headache for ISPs, and may be made even worse when you throw cloud services into the mix. Some of the options, or combinations thereof, that ISPs have used or considered using to deal with these key challenges include:
- Targeted advertising schemes – preferably via opt-in models as a way to help subsidise the cost of service. In some cases even extending to much cheaper or even “free” access, for your usage information, of course.
- Industry self regulation – Still not easy to do, but one that would benefit the entire industry, and help address the pressures from content owners
- Network Controls – Invest in better ways to track, monitor and control or “shape” network traffic, in order to deliver better quality of service, promote fair use, and support law enforcement
- Partner with content owners – To explore new and more flexible content business models. E.g. a survery found that music fans might actually prefer ISPs as their music supplier. However the advent since of cloud based music and streaming services may have changed that landscape somewhat.
In any case, it is still advisable for ISPs to bear in mind the following three points in trying to deal with this dilemma:
- Do not alienate or irritate the customer – protecting the customer relationship and keeping their trust is still key to future success
- Resist excessive external pressures – Content owners need ISPs as much as ISPs need them, and perhaps even more so
- Take the initiative – ISPs should be more proactive in creating customer-pleasing, regulator-friendly propositions and business models (perhaps by working closely with consumers and content owners)
Overall, there is no easy way to slow down the natural evolution of the Internet, and cloud services, therefore ISPs need to do more to understand, evolve and embrace what is really a critical niche in the digital content ecosystem. The cloud is here for all, and it is here to stay.
Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click – HERE
Starting spring of 2010, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will begin taking applications for additional generic Top Level Domains (gTLD) that could see an expansion of up to 500 new domain suffixes (such as: .food, .drink, .books, etc.). So what are the implications for established online brands, Internet Governance, and Cyber-crime?
For one thing, an expanded set of gTLDs has long been positioned by ICANN as something that “will allow for more innovation, choice and change to the Internet’s addressing system”. This is well in line with ICANN’s founding principle to promote competition whilst ensuring security and stability. Also the expansion programme is being undertaken only after lengthy and on-going consultations with the numerous communities of stakeholders across the global Internet Community, (apparently the new gTLDs can be up to 63 characters in length, and will provide support for Chinese, Arabic and other characters), thus opening up the field more fully to a global audience. Furthermore, several organisations have apparently announced plans to apply for the new gTLDs. So what’s the controversy you might ask?
Well, according to this article, there still several issues / criticisms to be addressed by ICANN e.g.:
- What protection exists for trademarks and intellectual property (i.e. protecting brands from phishing and cyber squatting)?
- Whether registrars can operate new gTLD registries (thereby overturning the previous ICANN requirement to separate the two entities / activities)
- How will community and geography-based gTLDs be evaluated (i.e. who will oversee the criteria and validity of applications for geographically-based gTLDs)
- The fast tracking of foreign language domains (e.g. for new language character support);
- How will this impact the domain naming market overall (who will win / lose in the new gTLD landscape)?
- At some $185,000 per new gTLD, this won’t be cheap and ICANN faces criticism over the fees it plans to charge new gTLD applicants (i.e. if only rich organisations can afford a new gTLD, then how does this cater for poorer but equally legitimate applicants)?
- Finally, according to an analysis piece in the Financial Times, there is ongoing tug-of-war over if and when ICANN should transfer full accountability for its operations to an international body
In summary, although there are still lots of issues / questions / criticisms to be addressed, the overarching goal of providing more choice, innovation and wider reach for the gTLD namespace is both laudable and to be encouraged. However, it must be done in a controlled manner in order to avoid any unintended consequences that could lead to irreparable fragmentation in the global Internet naming and addressing system.
The second World Copyright Summit, which took place last week, at the Ronald Reagan Conference Centre in Washington DC, was a well attended and successful event that drew great interest from all key stakeholders in the 21st Century’s fast-evolving, global creative economy.
Note: This post is taken from the executive summary of a report I have written about this event, which can also be found here:World Copyright Summit 2009 – Report.pdf
The main objective of the Copyright Summit was, as stated on the conference tag-line, to explore “New Frontiers for Creators in the Marketplace”, and this was achieved by providing a platform for the stakeholders (represented in both speakers and audience) to engage with each other in a series of dialogues, interviews, discussions, keynotes and general networking. One immediate outcome from this has been the wider recognition of a few key messages, which are outlined below as follows:
1. Time to Change Copyright
Right from the very first keynote, on day one, to several sessions on the second day, it became increasingly clear that most stakeholders are in agreement over the need for some far reaching changes to be made on the current copyright system before it can become more effective in protecting and incentivising creative works in a dynamic digital environment.
2. Need a Central, Unified and Authoritative Global Rights Registry
The above was identified in several of the sessions as a key enabler towards a more appropriate and effective rights management mechanism in a global digital context. The key issues are global / technology related, therefore the solution would appear to lie in taking a unified approach to implementing what some refer to as a global database for content rights
3. Accelerate the Shift towards New Business Models / Mindsets
The Google Books Settlement was repeatedly held up as a prime example of the art-of-the-possible in reaching a constructive and satisfactory outcome for all stakeholders. This model may be more difficult to accomplish in other media formats, but the fundamental requirements of an open, collaborative approach / mind-set by all stakeholders is mandatory for success. It is also becoming clear that content in digital / non-physical forms may be more appropriately positioned as a collaborative service, instead of the product-unit-centric worldview of the pre-digital content world.
In conclusion, and on the above terms, this summit can be deemed a success, and CISAC -the event organisers, deserve a hearty congratulation for their commitment in putting it all together. However, it might even be more of a success if and when the mid – longer term outcome of this Summit leads to some concrete changes in the world copyright system; and perhaps in the evolution of an authoritative / unified global rights registry; as well as the adoption of a more collaborative approach, in both business models and mindsets, by the content industries and all other stakeholders.
It is this author’s sincere hope, and recommendation, that the next version of this Summit will see the inclusion of more representatives from the developing world, as well as the much over-looked consumer / end-user stakeholder group, (which includes: ordinary citizens, students and the younger, next generation of users), that will ultimately deliver the verdict on any / all future initiatives on copyright..
Jude Umeh is a senior consultant and enterprise architect within Capgemini, and is something of a rights management evangelist. You can follow his Tweet-stream here
Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives. Also published at: http://www.capgemini.com/technology-blog/2009/06/copyright_digital_content_and/
Yes, this means you, you, and yes, you too. The only people exempt are those that can honestly claim to have had no contact with computing, Internet and mobile technologies, (and live under a rock for good measure), but even so I think they’d still struggle to prove their innocence on charges of file sharing.
Luckily the burden of proof usually lies with an injured party, or litigant, as is currently the case with the prosecution team in the ongoing Pirate Bay Trial in Sweden. This trial, in case you have been residing underground, was launched against the operators of Pirate Bay, (an online BitTorrent tracker website), who stand accused of contributory copyright infringement. If found guilty, the four defendants could each face a two-year jail term, and six-figure fines, just for starters. The case has attracted great public interest and media coverage over the possible outcome and implication for the global content industry (and for the unwashed hordes of ye olde file-sharing pirates & parasites. Arrrr!)
This is an interesting one to watch, if only for the unfolding drama, (I bet someone has already cornered the film rights), on which you can find further coverage here. The highlights, apart from this trial being the hottest ticket in town, include:
- Defendants remain defiant and upbeat – you can even catch them on your favourite Web 2.0 channel e.g.: Twitter / Blogs / YouTube, etc.
- Prosecution drops some charges – i.e. for outright copy-based infringement, but have retained the charges related to makingfiles available to the public
- The IFPI website got hacked – Although the defendants have pleaded against such activities
- Prosecution alters charges – apparently in a bid to ensure conviction
- IFPI president has his day in court – and squarely blames Pirate Bay, and similar services, for damaging the music industry
I can’t wait to see which way the dice will fall on this trial, which just replays the never-ending and titanic struggle between the old and the new in their efforts to win hearts and minds.
Finally, and on a similar theme, a major ISP in Ireland has agreed to block users from accessing music swapping websites, at the instigation of the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA). Interestingly enough, this might well prove to be a more effective method for reducing casual piracy than the Pirate Bay trial. However, it also opens up a whole new battle ground between ISPs and their customers, as the latter might very well decide to change providers, and / or raise a huge stink about some violation-of-human-rights or other. Watch this space.
Note: Originally posted on Capgemini’s Technology blog. You can see the original post, including comments, at: http://www.capgemini.com/technology-blog/2009/02/ahoy_there_pirates.php
It seems of late that Internet Service Providers (i.e. ISPs) are facing some very difficult choices that could either completely change their business models at best, and / or undermine their ability to operate as independent, viable business entities at worst.
The biggest challenge by far is around the growing perception of ISPs as de-facto gatekeepers of the Internet, which effectively adds another layer of complexity to their traditional / core business. As a result, not only do ISPs have to deal with existing non-trivial issues (e.g. declining markets, convergent evolution via multi-play business models, and issues around increasing broadband / bandwidth consumption), they also have to contend with the fact that:
- Content owners want ISPs to play a more central role in preventing, detecting, monitoring and punishing illegal file sharing (e.g. via schemes like the infamous three strikes proposal).
- The Digital Britain interim report has called for the creation of a UK Rights Agency (to be funded by ISP Levy) that will monitor the activities of suspected copyright infringers.
- There are also signs of lack of trust by ISP customers over service quality / charges, and potential invasion of privacy
These all add up to a severe headache for ISPs, both now and in the future, therefore some of the options they might want to consider in dealing with these challenges, includes:
- Reduce costs – E.g. via opt-in targeted advertising schemes to help subsidise the cost of service (perhaps even extending to “free” access)
- Stronger industry self regulation – Not easy to do, but would benefit the entire industry, and help address the pressure from content owners
- Maximise network use / value – Invest in better ways to track, monitor and control network traffic, in order to deliver better quality of service, promote fair use, and support law enforcement
- Partner with content owners – To explore new and more flexible content business models. E.g. a recent survey found that music fans actually prefer ISPs as their music supplier over others
- Embrace innovations – E.g. IPv6 (or Internet 2.0), should help resolve the looming threat of insufficient IP addresses, and deliver improved quality of service.
Regardless of which options, (or combinations thereof), are considered, it is advisable for ISPs to bear the following three points in mind:
- Do not alienate or irritate the customer – protecting the customer relationship and keeping their trust will be key to future success
- Resist excessive external pressures – Content owners need ISPs as much as ISPs need them, and perhaps even more so.
- Take the initiative – ISPs should be more proactive in creating customer-pleasing, regulator-friendly propositions and business models (perhaps by working closely with content owners)
In conclusion, although there is no easy way to prevent what is ultimately likely to be the natural evolution of the Internet, ISPs need to understand that these current challenges also provide great opportunities to evolve and embrace their critical niche in the emerging digital access / content ecosystem.
Disclosure: The above is an adaptation of a soon-to-be-published article, by this author, in Computing magazine.
Note: Originally posted on Capgemini’s Technology blog. You can see the original post, including comments, at: http://www.capgemini.com/technology-blog/2009/02/the_isp_dilemma_adapted.php
Certain unrelated recent developments (e.g. DRM at the Olympics, Ad-supported Pirate Videos, and potential ISP Music Download services) appear to show, what might be described as, positive progress towards embracing the evolving digital content economy. Hope springs eternal.
These notable developments, in three continents no less, include:
USA: Media Companies choose to profit from pirated YouTube Video Clips. The title says it all, and the article, from the New York Times, demonstrates how some major content companies are trying to explore other ways of making advertising lemonade from copyright infringement lemons.
UK: Possible ISP backed Flat Fee Music Deal. Although this appears to have turned into a damp squib, (albeit with publicity upside for the likes of PlayLouder and Virgin Broadband), the fact that the proposition of a flat-fee, all-you-can-eat, P2P based music sharing service supported by a major ISP could gain so much traction / buzz in the blogosphere effectively demonstrates a potential opportunity, worthy of further exploration, for the music labels and ISPs (off the back of their recent agreement).
China: Free Music / Protect Video – Perhaps as befitting a nation with the world’s eyes on it, there are two developments worthy of mention here:
- Google launches free music download service in China – This was announced in February, and will enable Google users in China to search and download DRM-free songs. Although the advert based revenue is to be split between Google / the music labels / hosting service provider, some analysts still wonder if the major music labels ought to be worried.
- DRM at the Beijing Olympics. According to this recent DRMWatch article, China’s CCTV has chosen SafeNet’s OMA 2.0 DRM for protecting Internet video coverage of the Beijing Olympics. Ok, so there’s that dreaded three letter acronym again, but this is arguably a good example of the appropriate use of DRM technology for valuable, time sensitive, content.
In conclusion, the above are just some examples of steady progress towards embracing the changes, challenges and opportunities offered by the evolving digital content landscape. Who knows, perhaps tomorrow there might even be a severe outbreak of world peace. As said before, hope springs internal (sic).
Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.