Remissvar till EU-kommissionen

Genom Joakim Lundblad blev jag uppmärksammad på att EU-kommissionen samlar in synpunkter om DRM-skydd, internationell licensiering och jakten på fildelare.

Information om konsultationer av det här slaget har en tendens att inte spridas särskilt väl till allmänheten. En oproportionerligt stor del av de svarande utgörs därför av särintressen som kämpar för ytterligare lagar och regler.

Nu har jag skickat ett eget remissvar till kommissionen, som lyder så här:

As a member of the Swedish Parliament and as a Swedish citizen subjected to European-Union regulation I appreciate the opportunity to give my view on the issues of file sharing and copyright law.

The annex of the communication on creative content online in the Single Market consists of 11 questions. What follows here is my answer to questions 9, 10 and 11 regarding stakeholder cooperation and filtering.

The French Model Should not be Exported

The core of the French model for combating copyright violations, as described in the Commission’s communication, is to identify file sharers and to cut their internet access. The ISP:s then have a responsibility for the content that their subscribers download, and to enforce copyright violations some surveillance will be necessary.

In Sweden, a similar proposal has been put forward as a part of “the Renfors report.” When the Swedish government sent the Renfors proposal out to agencies and organizations for consideration the criticism was harsh. The Swedish Courts of Appeal questions whether banning citizens from the Internet would indeed reduce online file sharing. Despite several other countries having already taken similar action, none have had good results to show for it. In Finland, that has implemented this model, files-sharing activity initially dropped. However, after only three months the illegal file-sharing activities were back at previous levels.

The Swedish Data Inspection Board, responsible for safeguarding the individual’s integrity, asks whether the Renfors proposal is consistent with the protection of private correspondence that is granted by the European Convention on Human Rights. EU directives as well as national legislation say that the responsibility of the Internet Service Providers is to offer a tool for communication – not to keep track of what individuals discuss or what information they exchange. The Competition Authority adds that it’s unreasonable to give private businesses responsibilities that should belong to a government agency.

Copyright Enforcement Threatens Integrity

Sweden is one of the world’s most prominent technology nations, and our technology friendliness is reflected in the public opinion that views file sharing primarily as a positive phenomenon. A big part of the Swedish population favors decriminalizing all non-commercial file sharing. With our technological development, this is the only solution, unless we want an ever more extensive control of what citizens do on the Internet.

Already there are anonymization services on the market that make the currently discussed models ineffective. Putting an end to copyright-infringing file sharing will demand other tools that further intensifies the surveillance of the Internet. The simple truth is that almost all communication channels on the Internet can be used to distribute copyrighted information. If you can use a service to send a message you can most likely use the same service to send an mp3-song. Those who want to prevent people from exchanging of copyrighted material must filter all electronic communication between citizens. This would be an unacceptable violation of citizens’ right to privacy.

The media industry needs reasonable rules to play by. The right to reasonable rules should apply also to Internet Service Providers, who don’t want to be an online police force. Making broadband suppliers watch what their customers download on the Internet would be like making postal services open every package. Those who defend creators’ rights should also defend everyone’s right to communicate without surveillance.

Reform Protectionist Copyright Laws

There will always be industries that call for harsher legislation when the market changes. Their interest in stopping progress must be weighed against the public’s interest in taking advantage of the opportunities that technology gives them. If politicians had met the demands from the copyright industry throughout history we would have had a considerably poorer media landscape; without music radio, VCR:s, mp3 players. All these innovations have met political and legal resistance.

CDs and DVDs that you buy in a store or order by mail will be phased out by modern file-sharing technologies. If this means the end of the recording industry as we know it, this is nothing that we can or should prevent. Attempting to stop file sharing to save the recording industry would be like outlawing cars to increase the sales of horse carriages.

While entertainment producers with old business models struggle, new businesses rise as a result of the technological shift. Youtube and Yahoo Launchcast are only two out of innumerous examples of how the Internet can bring both value to consumers and revenue to producers. In fact, we should demand that everyone seeking to make a profit from selling entertainment adapts to this new reality. That means they need to have business models that are consistent with the freedom to share material on the Internet. Copyright laws, as they are designed in most western countries, set out to protect entertainment producers by granting them a monopoly on copying and distributing their goods. Generally, we demand that entrepreneurs have business models that work without legislated monopolies. Why should this not apply to creative artists?

Copyright should not be considered a property right. In “The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism”, the economist and Nobel-Prize recipient FA Hayek explains the difference between conventional property rights and copyright. While the supply of material resources is limited by nature the supply of an immaterial good unlimited, unless the government limits the supply by law. According to Hayek, there is no empirical evidence that copyright laws stimulate innovation. A later Nobel-Prize recipient, Milton Friedman, describes copyright as a monopoly that decreases supply to a lever below the optimal level. Copyright and the regulations that follow from it should, according to Friedman, be described primarily as a limitation of free speech.

There is obviously no clear-cut, time-resistant frame defining what the government should protect as property. Neither is there empirical evidence that copyright laws need to be preserved in their current form. Therefore, I strongly react against the suggested efforts to raise “awareness on the importance of copyright for the availability of content.” Such effort could not be described as education, if education is defined as spreading information based on science.

Karl Sigfrid
Member of the Swedish Parliament representing the Moderate party