Political Intelligence Group MD Nicholas Lansman spoke at the LSE’s Media Policy Project on how far ISPs should be liable for copyright infringing material on the net.
The history of the debate revolves around the music industry decrying a disruptive technology eating into the profits of record companies by allowing users to illegally download copyrighted material. In return the ISPs would claim to be providing “dumb pipes” protected by the “mere conduit” status of the E-Commerce Directive and therefore not responsible for other people’s content.
- Nicholas argued that the ‘dumb pipe’ analogy had been considerably corroded. ISPs had accepted the technical ability to block content and as such the Courts of England and Wales had served orders on several UK ISPs to block sites such as The Pirate Bay and Newsbin2.
- The dynamism within ISPs and the record companies had, Nicholas suggested led to an “animal farm situation” where man and pig were looking distinctly similar: ISPs such as BT, Sky and Virgin were now huge music, football and film rightsholders in themselves whilst record companies were proud owners of online platforms such as Spotify and Vevo.
- The changing fortunes of the record companies were discussed following the recent announcement by the BPI that digital revenues now made up over 50% of the record companies’ revenues.
Much of the anguish had gone out of the debate which came to its zenith during the passage of the Digital Economy act in 2010; however there were still many unsettled issues at stake, not least the future of copyright reform and the lost voice of the individual user.
Also involved in the panel debate was Geoff Taylor, CEO of The British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) and Dr Monica Horten a visiting fellow in LSE’s Department of Media and Communications, and author of A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms. Chairing was Anne Barron, Associate Professor in the LSE Department of Law whose research examines the role of copyright in underpinning the profitability of the culture and information industries, and in shaping visual arts, music and film.