Who To Blame For Copyright Infringement?

Copyright Law with Christopher Sabec

Torrents and peer-to-peer file sharing has been one of the most discussed problems facing the entertainment industry over the last several years, and for good reason. The illegal distribution of intellectual property is severely hurting the music, film, and television industries.

While some users are happy to pay for a new music album or rent the latest movie online, there are others who take advantage of a number of different online platforms that offer illegal downloads to essentially any music album, film, TV series or book you could think of.

This has resulted in a massive loss of revenue for everyone within the entertainment industry. The music industry alone loses billions of dollars each year from the illegal downloading of songs. The illegal distribution of these songs has made it difficult for the music companies to pay everyone on their payroll who plays in incricale role to the production of a song.

We are reaching a point where the entertainment industry will begin seriously reevaluating the products they are producing. The only ones worth producing will be the ones that cost very little to make.

The complex issue of enforcing copyright online has led to a growing number of court cases in countries throughout the world. As this article points out, the seemingly simple (but in reality very complex question) of: who exactly is responsible for copyright infringement through illegal downloads?

Germany’s Supreme Court recently opened the door for ISP (internet service provider) blockades of copyright infringement. ISPs will not be required to block websites if, and only if, copyright holders have exhausted all their options to identify the operators or hosting providers of the pirates sites.

This method of domain blocking has also become the go-to option for the entertainment industry in Europe. Although in most countries, civil claims against ISPs have only been successful when illegal distribution is taking place “on a commercial scale.”

But not all countries approach the issue the same way. In fact, Sweden recently ruled that Sweden’s ISPs cannot be forced to block file sharing site PirateBay, nor can they be held responsible for copyright infringement by users. This decision even took the creators of PirateBay by surprise.

PirateBay is blocked by dozens of ISPs throughout Europe and the website is accustomed to suits of this nature. Sweden was looking to stand up for the ISPs, therefore, they had no choice by to stand up for PirateBay itself.

There are other options currently being debated to solve this issue of online piracy. They include anything restrictive copyright laws to charing ISPs a fee for each internet connection above data usage. In 2003, the United States implemented the Copyright Alert System to “alert, educate and punish” subscribers of five major ISPs.

Most users are obviously aware that peer-to-peer sharing is illegal. But copyright holders have been reluctant to sue the person responsible for the infringement for two main reasons.

First, it’s hard to sue someone if you can’t find them. Most ISPs are corporate entities with fixed places of business. The users who post infringing materials may be mobile or difficult to track down.

Second, the infringers are likely to be “judgement-proof,” which means they lack the financial resources to pay a substantial liability judgement. ISPs have much deeper pockets, making it the more lucrative option.

But the question that needs to be answered is whether or not this is a fair way to approach the problem. At the end of the day, the only role of an ISP is to provide customers with internet access and facilitate the free-flow of information.