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Courts and commentators have unanimously convened that the internet is a copious field for debate and self-expression. However, this applause masks the spiky discrepancy over whether specific internet-assisted technologies should be deplored or lauded. The problem at hand is the unauthorized sharing of materials protected by copyright laws commonly known as peer to peer piracy. The outburst of distribution and remixing of films and popular songs through the internet by the use of P2P (peer-to-peer) networks such as Kazaa, Napster and Morpheus has exceedingly stirred up dissonant responses.

P2P piracy involve a wide array of content including child pornography, adult pornography, comics and books, games, movies, software, music and TV shows and episodes. Other peer to peer networks such as Edonkey/ Emule, Gnutella, Bearshare, DC++ Hubs, Shareaza and Bittorent have also increased the incidents of illegal file sharing through the internet. Some of the proponents of P2P networks purport that the technology encourages individual autonomy, creative collaboration and self-expression through the transformation, exchange and the collection of the existing works.

Opponents of the practice have bitterly complained of the free sharing as one of the ways of intellectual property immense piracy which demands critical intervention. The claims made by those who denounce P2P networks can be understood on the ground that the practice poses a threat on the system of copyright which sustains artists, authors and producers. These claims need to be addressed to protect the greatest cash cow industry in the invention and distribution of innovative expressions. However, claims from both sides have weighty explanations and therefore critical judgment is required in considering such a scenario.

Some recommendations have been proposed about what the governments and organizations should do to mitigate the problem of piracy through P2P networks. Only recently, several attempts have been made to stop user’s access to the internet in order to combat piracy in countries such as the United Kingdom. A number of copyright industries have effectively shut down some P2P networks like Napster and still determined to bring down others by bringing lawsuits against other P2P networks. However, a well thought action has to be taken which respects the law and the rights of people.

The copyright industries have also sought to force consumer electronics as well as telecommunication companies to render the unlicensed P2P copyright-protected content sharing functionless. A large number of individuals sharing files online have been targeted although individuals who transfer large numbers of files for commercial purposes are most targeted. Despite the efforts to silence the practice, the unauthorized P2P file swapping has been escalating. This calls for a well thought action that can solve the problem once and forever.

The idea of putting a total ban on P2P sharing suppresses freedom of expression and is not practical. However, allowing unrestricted and noncommercial P2P sharing of products and services while levying on the sale of all consumer products might seem viable step for governments and organisations in curtailing the practice. Efforts by governments to stop the sharing of copyright-protected materials were given a strong backup when the European Parliament in 2009 gave a green light for the member states to prevent the relentless file-sharers off from using the internet.

According to the report by the BBC News, the European Parliament dropped an amendment that would have loosened the bolts for member states to prevent pirates from using the net without prior authority from the court. The European Parliament had earlier reconsidered the effect of the Telecoms Package and made some changes on the provision. The Telecoms package allowed states to cut off the persistent online file-sharers from the net although a legal authority had to be provided before any such actions according to the amendments.

The rationale on the amendment was to prevent the effects reaching other innocent citizens of automatically being cut off from using the computer network system. However, as the countries got keen to implement the anti-piracy laws, the European Parliament dropped the amendment and states were once again fully allowed to cut off the pirates without seeking court authority. The BBC News reported that the French government had already approved plans that could ensure that pirates are removed and prevented from using the internet up to a period of one year.

The file sharing policy in the UK was also expected to integrate a clause that provided for the disconnection of persistent file-sharers. The decision by the European Parliament of dropping the amendment was yet another blow to the provision of fundamental rights to the citizens which the European government had earlier recognized that the internet access was important for the sensible implementation of a number of fundamental rights.

The effective dropping of the amendment implied that member states would have the power to ask different internet service providers (ISPs) such as Orange, Virgin Media, Tiscall, BSKyB and Carphone Warehouse to delete users from their database who are deemed to be persistent pirates without the need to seek any court order. This action not only suppressed the fundamental freedom of citizens but also encouraged the problem of sharing copyrighted materials over the internet to be a persistent problem.

The BBC News reported Mark Mulligan of the Forrester Research saying that without total compelling of the P2P services, the war on piracy would not be of any success. Similar views were held by Gordon Brown, the UK Prime Minister that the internet was as essential as electricity, water and gas hence people were entitled to unregulated internet access. As Mulligan thought, peer-to-peer network sharing could be a fraction of the whole problem and entirely new and emerging piracy tools that do not rely on computer network systems are increasingly becoming common.

This makes the fight against piracy to become difficult to be achieved through the cutting off pirates from having internet access. Additionally, legislation alone may not be the solution to curb illegal sharing of files through the internet where about 14 percent of the European populations who use the internet indulge in such illegitimate business. However, at network level, the ISPs have the capacity to identify computers from which contents such as music and text files are being illegitimately downloaded.

Other forms of modern file sharing techniques involve non-networked systems such as e-mail, instant messaging, music blogs, iPod and Bluetooth ripping which have contributed to the problem of piracy. For governments and international organisations to stop the menace of peer to peer piracy, there should be a multifaceted approach and not basing the fight on piracy on merely legislation and legitimate services. These are the same attempts which governments are planning to take in order to curb peer to peer piracy and unfortunately, the legislation process is overly sluggish.

Instead, both the ISPs and the governments should begin taking responsibility on the increased cases of digital piracy. The decision to hold ISPs and the government responsible became an acceptable principle in 2007 and was expected to become veracity in 2008. The role of the ISPs in the protection of creative materials in the music industry has been proposed and this will greatly help curb the problem of peer to peer sharing of copyright materials. The internet is not expected to be a lawless precinct where the outlaws find chance to pillage materials with lots of abandonment or trade the material with impunity.

The failure in the fight of peer to peer piracy has largely been contributed by the laxity of the ISPs to actively participate in the fight. Instead, the ISPs have allowed the internet to become a highly advanced enemy to the digital music industry in the European countries and beyond. According to the European Copyright Directive, Article 8(3) provides that each member state has to ensure that individuals with copyright are in the capacity of applying for an injunction against the intermediaries who have their services enjoyed by users who infringe the copyright laws.

Elsewhere, in the United States, Singapore and Australia, the law states that any ISP which wishes to reap the benefits of safe business and avoid monetary responsibilities on their network have to plausibly implement and adopt policies providing for the deletion of the account holders and subscribers who persistently infringe copyright laws. These directives state the responsibility of both the governments and organizations in the fight against peer to peer piracy. The implementation of such provision will end the unscrupulous practice of peer to peer piracy and make digital music industry a robust business venture.

Perhaps the most preferred option on the part of the UK government which will bring to an end the illegitimate peer-to-peer file sharing is the co-regulatory approach. This approach should consist of the self-regulatory industry being able to design codes of conduct that cover both the ISPs and the right holders’ rights. In the self-regulatory approach, the industry should be able to create awareness through education, make available specific content in a range of formats and prices to customers and also notify any alleged infringer.

The approach of self-regulator industry should have the overall regulator who will be charged with the responsibility of approving all the codes of conduct in the industry. The regulator will then invite all stakeholders as well as the rights holders and ISPs to form a group which will explore effectual mechanisms that will deal with those who repeatedly infringe copyright laws. Members of the forms group should then examine solutions as well as technical actions like filtering or traffic management and tagging of legitimate materials to ease the identification process.

The group should also seek ways to devise mechanisms on how rights holders should take actions against those who persistently infringe the laws protecting digital content. The co-regulatory approach will also give the ISPs an obligation to take measures against those identified on their network by the copyrights holders as infringing the laws via peer-to-peer network. The obligation can be fulfilled by the observance of the codes of conduct and the mechanisms to handle persistent infringers.

Apart from applying the co-regulatory approach in curbing the peer to P2P piracy, governments can also use the alternative regulatory options as proposed in the legislative options addressing illicit P2P file sharing in July 2008. These options include streamlining the already existing procedures by necessitating all the ISPs to submit to the copyright holders any private information about a given Internet Protocol (IP) address upon request without the need for them to follow court procedures.

Another alternative regulatory option will be the setting requirements for all ISPs to take direct measures against any user identified by the rights holder as going against the copyright laws through the use of P2P tools. The allocation of a third party to carefully judge evidence that is presented by the copyright holders will be another important step in the effort to stop peer to peer piracy. The ISPs should also be directed to take measurers against any individual user or they should be allowed to make autonomous decisions over directly taking actions against persistent infringers.

Another option is to require all ISPs to allow the installation of critical filtering equipments which can block any infringing content. This will reduce the amount of infringed content shared during P2P file sharing via the internet. Alternatively, the ISPs should be required to install the filtering equipments themselves to block such content from reaching the infringers. The fight against peer to peer piracy received major triumphant when international organizations, government bodies and six largest ISPs in the UK agreed to sign the antipiracy deal on July 2008.

The ISPs agreed to send letters of caution to their customers who had been found downloading any form of illegal movies or music. However, it is not yet clear what actions the ISPs will take on the infringers who are warned but then fail to respond appropriately. However, the agreement that was reached in 2008 held that ISPs regulate, manage and monitor connections from all their customers and prevent illegitimate file sharing through P2P network.

If this agreement is obeyed, the fight against P2P piracy will be a success. Counting on another effort to counter peer to peer piracy is the agreement that was made recently which provided that the Digital Economy Act establishes the rationale for the introduction of a graduated mechanism of response in the UK. The Digital Economy Act is more or less similar to the three-strike law which was enacted in France to counter illegal sharing of files through the internet.

This royal agreement was made on the 8th April 2010 to provide a chain of accountability on the ISPs. The Act also seeks to impose accountability on the ISPs to inform their subscribers in case their IP addresses are used in the illegitimate download of copyright-protected digital content. The ISPs, according to the Digital Economy Act are obliged to maintain a clear database on the frequency of issuing notices to every subscriber found downloading copyright-protected content illegitimately.

The Act also seeks to demand all the ISPs to compile anonymous list having subscribers that have been notified and the ISPs the disclosure of the identity of the subscribers to copyright holders will only be permitted prior to the right holder obtaining a court order. The Digital Economy Act seems more practical and might help fight peer to peer piracy. For instance, the right owners can always identify infringement cases and submit all the details of the infringing subscribers as well as their IP addresses to the ISPs. The ISPs will then authenticate the evidence and ensure that the evidence meets the needed quality.

After authenticating, the ISPs will then send notices to the subscribers alleged to infringe copyright laws. The notices will help maintain record on the frequency of infringement each time a subscriber is noted. The ISPs should then be able to produce a list of copyright infringement for each subscriber. This disclosure of personal information of the infringing subscribers is also provided for in the UK Data Protection Act of the 1998 section 35. In this provision, ISPs are required to submit all personal information about their subscribers and actions can be taken such as capping or complete regulation of their online activities.

The most recent effort by the governments to curb peer to peer piracy is the welcome of the US Federal Court ruling against Limewire on the 13th May, 2010. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) Chief Executive Officer and chairman, John Kennedy applauded the US Federal Court ruling that was delivered on the 12th may 2010 against Limewire claiming that Limewire had been a major hurdle in the efforts by the digital music industry to transform the thwarted business into legitimate digital music business over the internet.

IFPI is one of the international organisations that have been in the forefront in the fight against P2P piracy through targeting large scale file uploads by the use of Gnutella. The IFPI also targets servers or hubs that connect several millions of file sharers on edonkey and Directconnect. The Bittorrent trackers like the Swedish-based Pirate Bay which enables millions of net users to massively download copyright protected film, music, and other content is another target for IFPI.

However, the shutting down of the sites might not be a moral decision to take and organisations may be forced to take some other steps that are legally and morally recommended. The decision to shut down sites has one time happened on 23rd October, 2007 where the members-only Oink website was shut down due to its being used as a source for downloading copyright protected music. The site was closed by IFPI, Interpol, British Phonographic Industry (BPI) as well as other organisations following an investigation dubbed ‘Operation Ark Royal’ which led to the arrest of the site’s creator, Alan Ellis.

The war on P2P piracy continues to gain more strength and in the future, a clean digital content business will be realized. This is a sound of sweet music to the authors, musicians, producers and other online content providers. However, as organizations and governments apply their tools in rooting out the problem, care has to be taken to avoid the abuse of human rights. Although there may be several subscribers who constantly download and share copyright-protected content, chances are that there are situations where anti-piracy actions may affect innocent users.

Concerted efforts may seem to bear fruits and international organizations, members of the public and state governments should embrace the culture that will protect copyright content that has been developed by creative minds. The protection of such content not only prevents fraud and increases profits but also encourages added innovativeness. Works Cited Akdeniz, Yaman, Rights and responsibilities in the information age. 14th May, 2010 BBC News. “Europe Backs Down on Piracy Plans” 23 October, 2009. CyberLaw Blog. 5th June, 2010. Web <http://cyberlaw. org. uk/2009/10/26/bbc-news-europe-backs-down-on- piracy- plans/>

Meyer, David. “Open Wi-Fi ‘outlawed’ by Digital Economy Bill,” ZDNetUK. 26 February, 2010. Web: 05th June, 2010. http://www. zdnet. co. uk/news/networking/2010/02/26/open- wi-fi-outlawed-by-digital-economy-bill-40057470/ Milojicic, Dejan, et al. “Peer-to-Peer computing,” 3rd July 2003. Hewlett-Packard Company. Web: 5th June, 2010 http://citeseerx. ist. psu. edu/viewdoc/download? doi=10. 1. 1. 9. 8222&rep=rep1&type=pdf Weinstock , Neil, N. “Impose a Noncommercial use levy to allow free peer-to peer file sharing,” Harvard Journal of Law & Technology. 17 (2003): 2-44.

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