Piracy In France – The Smokescreen

Nothing For Us, Something For Nothing for Them

Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy endorsed a new law aimed at punishing those who share music and movies online. The new law creates an agency to sift through data that ISPs will be required to hand over about their highest-volume bandwidth users. Offenders will receive 2 warnings, and then be subject to disconnection.

This concept is the brainchild of Denis Olivennes, chairman of the retail chain Fnac. Fnac is one of the largest entertainmnet chains in France, and so has a definite interest in “physical-format” items such as CDs and DVDs. The theory is that, if downloads (non-physical) can be curtailed then sales of CDs and DVDs will go up. Seems like a conflict of interest to some.

How It Works:
ISPs monitor your bandwidth usage, identifying high-bandwidth users by name.
ISPs provide a list to the newly created agency.
The agency sends out “electronic warning messages” to individual users.
After 2 warnings, users are subject to disconnection.
Filmmakers agree to release physical DVDs faster.
Music firms support DRM-free tracks in music stores.

The WTF Factor
ISPs have always monitored bandwidth usage. That is, after all, what they are selling. They have an “inventory” of available bandwidth and, like any other business with an inventory, must know how much they have available.
P2P networks demand alot of bandwidth, so lowering the amount for a group of users will make more available across their system. This translates into increasing their supply, and probably their profits.

I’m not against more profits. But I am uncertain about any value this will add to anyone in the public. In the past, any customer of any ISP in the “free” world had some assurance that their personal info was kept confidential. This will not be true anymore. What will be true is that the ISPs are now providing that very personal information to an agency created by the government to help these two industries become more profitable.

Also to be considered is the reality that this strategy can only work in an area that’s pretty well saturated with cheap high-speed internet services. ISPs in other countries seem to be a bit reluctant to cooperate with efforts like these. File-sharing, questionable or not, is one of the biggest motivators for buying a high-speed connection.

Here’s a few quotes I’d like you to consider:

“In return for agreeing to monitor net use, film-makers agreed to speed up the transfer of movies to DVD and music firms pledged to support DRM-free tracks on music stores.”

Physical DVDs and CDs generally do not contain any DRM already, so the promise of no DRM on CDs is only smoke. And DVD releases are already fairly rapid. If they really thought this was cutting into their sales, they would just speed up DVD releases anyway. More smoke. The film-makers and music firms are not the ones doing the monitoring, the ISPs are, so this statement is all just smoke from its premise.

“The group who brokered the deal said the measures were intended to curb casual piracy rather than tackle large scale pirate groups.”

That quote, right there, tells the whole story. Large scale pirating, if pirating were the problem, would be the real threat to go after. But this is not about “pirating”. This is about increasing profits in 2 industries that are already increasing profits daily.The truth is that bandwidth is getting cheaper by the minute. By. The. Minute. ISPs can do nothing and their profits will go up. Record producers usually lose money on a per artist basis, but they have cut back on new artists and their profits are up. This is all what I can’t help but call, Bullicus.

From a well written critique of the RIAA(and others) assertions about online piracy. “If piracy is the problem, why is it that sales didn’t start declining until AFTER the RIAA had Napster shut down?”

Well, that’s a very good question. Could it be that the buying public now sees itself as an adversary to the recording industry? We’ve known all along that most of the artists got squat from their recording deals. Maybe we’ve changed the way we look at that, after several years of being treated like thieves.

So Who Benefits?

ISPs – less bandwidth used and therefore lower cost of operating services
FNAC – hoping for more physical item sales
IFPI etc – maintaining what little bit of control over where the money goes
Artists – can’t see any benefits here….

I am Jon, and I am calling Bullicus.

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