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Kerfuffle Over EU Copyright Study

Two weeks ago Pirate MEP Julia Reda unearthed a study, commissioned by the Internal Market DG of the EU in 2013, on the impact of piracy on the market for sales of media, otherwise referred to as the ‘displacement rate’. She became curious about because she came across the original tender documents online but was unable to find it published anywhere. Her attempts to access the document via a freedom of information request were unsuccessful, but after she acquired and published the document, the Commission released the report itself. The timing itself looks like a smoking gun.

My guess is that not many people will actually read this 300 page document, another salvo in a long-running struggle by the different sides in the copyright debate to rally the authority of economic analysis and statistics to their side. This one has drawn attention because of a suspicion that the Commission decided to suppress the research findings because they poorly fit their pro-copyright orientation and the push for a new, more stringent, copyright directive in particular. The Internal Market DG has long had a proclivity for back-room activity in support of the Copyright industry, and spawned the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights in 2012.

Apparently – I haven’t read it myself – the report supports the argument that while music and games do not suffer negative effects due to piracy, blockbuster movies do endure losses. But this is a familiar Punch & Judy show. I don’t think we should lend credence to the idea that the policy outcomes are actually being settled by a careful weighing of the evidence in a rational debate – that’s obscuring how lobbying and exercise of power shapes EU regulation.

If we’re going to spend a little time genuflecting at the altar of positivism, I’d be more interested in reading about the new face of cultural production: self-sustaining youtubers; self-publishing of books; the fall and rise of the music business; changes in film economics and the background of filmmakers etc. Fourteen years ago the music industry launched its mass lawsuits against p2p users, but for much of the new field of cultural production the conditions of reproducibility are an environmental fact, and its enabling technologies are the preconditions for their own viability – cheaper models of production and distribution. This is a cultural production that adapts to the digital rather than fear it as an existential threat. (That sounds old!) That said, the optimistic predictions of net utopians have been exposed as naive; the gate-keepers are still here, but they are now in a different point in the production cycle (marketing, platforms etc).

Such research is surely being done, I’d be curious to know if the Commission is doing any of it and paying any heed to what emerges.

 

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Autumn, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1573

 

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September 30, 2017 Posted by | / | Leave a comment