Non-market sharing is a fundamental right

Commissioner Barnier spoke yesterday in a conference on Creative industries: innovation and growth1. He announced “a major initiative to focus on ISPs to fight online piracy because he doesn’t want to criminalise consumers”. He added that this strategy will be developed with Commissioners Kroes (digital agenda) and Vassiliou (culture).

This announcement signals a new stage in the war against sharing in the digital sphere: after suing users for infringement, after automated sanctions and the criminalization of some tools, policy is now after depriving users of the means to share by exerting pressure on ISPs. Just like the “graduated response” or three-strike approaches were presented as softer than infringement cases, transforming ISP in police auxiliaries is presented as “avoiding to ciminalize” users, that is it treats them all as criminals preventively2.

As critics of these policy, we have some degree of responsibility in the fact that it is still possible for some to defend them. We stressed the fact that the means of the war on sharing stroke a blow to fundamental rights. Too often, we did not stress that it is the aim of this war itself that attacks fundamental rights. We must remedy this immediately. We must say loud and clear that the sharing between individuals without aim at profit of digital works is a fundamental right, a requirement for exerting -in the conditions of our time- the rights defined in article 27.1 if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights3.

Non-market sharing is the act of transmitting or making available to another individual, without profit, a production of the mind that is in our possession in digital form. This act enables the realization of a dream of our predecessors since the antiquity: creating common pools of knowledge, ideas, opinions, and human creations, according to our interests and choices. What is criminal is to accept for our contemporaries to be deprived from this capability. The war on sharing is not better rooted in policy that is in right: there is strictly no risk for the recognition of sharing to dry up the wealth of works that are produced. Quite the contrary, the recognition than today, as before, the non-market practices of individuals are none of the business of copyright law is the first step towards putting in place new financing models for cultural activities whose scale is vastly extending.

This post is also available in: French

  1. This conference was organized by the Confrontations think-tank and the discrete CSPH International lobby (Intellectual Property Rights and the EU Digital Agenda) chaired by Philippe Hardouin of Tera Consultants. Among speakers were the economist Olivier Bomsel, advocate of the artificial creation of scarcity in the digital sphere, and Thierry Sueur, former “Mr. Intellectual Property” of MEDEF, the large firm employer union in France. []
  2. When it does not corner them into self-incrimination, as with the new version of specifications of securisation devices whose installation will bring immunity from the three-strike HADOPI law. []
  3. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.. []

One Comment

  • Wayne Borean wrote:

    The aim is not to stop copyright infringement. It is, as I pointed out several years ago, to stop all sharing.

    If all sharing is stopped, this means that companies like Microsoft will no longer face competition from those pesky Free Software people. It means that the members of the RIAA/BPI/IFPI won’t have to face competition from bands that are giving away their music to attract fans to concerts. It means that the members of the MPA/MPAA won’t have to face competition from independent film makers like Hanna Skold and Nina Paley who use The Pirate Bay as a distribution mechanism.

    The war has never been about copyright infringement. It has always been about economic models. The large, entrenched companies do not want to have to compete on the merits of their products/services.

    Instead they want the government to make it illegal for the artists and consumers to bypass them. The artists, consumers, & politicians need to get wise to this really quickly.

    To quote PJ over at Groklaw, ‘It’s all about the money, honey.’


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