Internet, record labels
By Marc P Holmes
Italian police have shut down the Discotequezone file-sharing network with raids in Rome, Milan and Brescia. A total of 11 computers and 110,000 illegal MP3 music files were seized in the action. Police in the Italian city of Bergamo have reportedly arrested the administrators of a P2P network, along with seven filesharers who are accused of illegally uploading copyright materials including in excess of 110, 000 MP3 files. These raids constitute another episode in the continuing global ‘war on illegal filesharing’ waged on illicit downloaders. Under Italian law, the IFPI reports, these individuals could now “…face fines of up to 8.5 million euros in each case” and form part of a group of 170 file-sharers and P2P network administrators who have so far been hauled up before the country’s courts on similar charges.
It is interesting to note that many of the new prosecutions being faced by such filesharers in their respective countries are now being brought by state authorities. This marks a subtle, yet significant shift in the nature of the battle against internet-based copyright infringement. Whereas initially the music industry itself brought private prosecutions against such individuals, with the result being, in all but exceptional cases, downright awful press, the stepping in of the authorities in these countries – albeit after sustained lobbying campaigns – has added a legitimacy to such proceedings that the global industry bodies have so long craved.
Despite this, in the face of the dogged continuation of legal proceedings against filesharers, it is still hard to see the real efficacy of such proceedings beyond the deterrent – a relatively impotent one – with the statistical improbability of being prosecuted for downloading music remaining high. Furthermore, there appears to be little evidence of a direct link between successful prosecutions and the recent increase in legal downloading, which is reported to now constitute 4% of global music sales (The Times, Oct 4 2007).
In the face of the continued proliferation of illegal filesharing, it seems that the music industry is still getting it wrong. At their inception, certain shrewd commentators advised that the strategic nature of the copyright enforcement proceedings would have to be not so overtly punitive, or at least a solid defence of legal rights coupled with conciliatory moves towards to consumer. Yes, the industry has a right to defend its investment in copyright works, but surely there must come a point when a more creative, and crucially strategic, approach to tackling the problem must be employed.