Monday, March 17, 2008

File-sharing via P2P - Japanese ISPs as judges?

Have just read the article about how Japanese Internet Service Providers, i.e. the ISPs, will cut off the Internet access of subscribers found in illegal sharing of computer games, animes and music files. This is quite a recent development, i.e. in March 2008. In the proposed plan, it seems that
...copyright organizations would notify providers of Internet protocol addresses used by those who repeatedly make copies illegally, using special detection software. The providers would then send warning e-mails to the users based on the IP addresses of the computers used to connect to the Internet. If contacted users did not then stop their illegal copying, the providers would temporarily disconnect them from the Internet for a specified period of time or cancel their service-provision contracts.
What is interesting is that the court is not involved. Thus copyright organisations would play the role of judges? This cannot be, since technically speaking these copyright organisations play the role of plaintiff when they first complain about infringements. Thus, to put it more accurately, the ISPs will be the ones playing judges.


In any copyright regime, there will always be circumstances for fair dealing clauses where using a copyright works without the explicit permission from the owners are allowed. Examples include news reporting, and educational uses. If we ask the ISPs to play the roles of judges, it is likely they will simply ignore the 'fair dealing' uses, since it will be too much trouble for them.

Compare the Japanese case with the Sweden case where the court is involved, it seems to be more prudent actually. In this article on Wired News about the Sweden development, a spokesman for the Swedish ISPs said that
"It's good in the way that we don't have to judge whether an Internet activity is legal or illegal," he said.
I agree with him. Leave the ISPs to do what they know best, i.e. provide Internet access, and let the courts and judges come in for the legal matters. It is only natural to get some checks and balances to prevent any systems from being abused. In these whole scenarios of ISPs, copyright owners, and uses (both legal and illegal), it is tough to determine what is right or wrong. Take a look at this discussion about the class action suit against the RIAA in the States for some different perspective.

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