Book review: The Copyright Enforcement Enigma

Book review: The Copyright Enforcement Enigma

Summary: Go back ten or 15 years, and the word 'convergence' cropped up a lot with respect to the internet, telecommunications and media. What has converged in subsequent years has actually gone beyond what was envisaged then — at least in terms of technology.

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Go back ten or 15 years, and the word 'convergence' cropped up a lot with respect to the internet, telecommunications and media. What has converged in subsequent years has actually gone beyond what was envisaged then — at least in terms of technology. Relatively few then foresaw the extent to which all three would blend — not only with each other, but also with mobile and retail.

But, as Monica Horten writes in The Copyright Enforcement Enigma: Internet Politics and the 'Telecoms Package', although the technologies have converged, EU policy had not. What happened in the negotiations over the EU's telecommunications package is that copyright interests essentially sought to colonise this area of legislation, which historically had nothing to do with them.

Until the mid-2000s, when the EU began work on the Telecoms Reform Package that eventually passed in 2009, telecommunications law had always been about carriage, not content. Copyright and telecoms "enshrined different sets of values". But, as Horten explains, rights holders sought to expand the scope of the reform package to incorporate copyright enforcement.

These are the same people who have pushed for the provisions in the UK's Digital Economy Act known as 'graduated response' or 'three strikes'. It should therefore come as no surprise that these were the rules they were trying to get imposed at an EU-wide level. It's this attempt that Horten, a telecommunications analyst and consultant, studies in this book, beginning with a brief history of copyright and its enforcement and winding up with the final agreement that passed into law. Along the way, she carefully recounts and documents the ins and outs of how EU law gets made.

Now, not everyone wants to know the gory details of who shifted in which direction at the third reading — there's that whole aphorism about law and sausages. But increasingly what must be enshrined in national law is decided at the EU level, so understanding the process is important. This is especially the case with respect to copyright law, and Horten documents attempts to pass laws enabling enforcers to bypass the courts back to the 16th century. Litigation and lobbying are the methods that have dominated this field for centuries. Europe, in particular, has taken a different view to the US of copyright: European policy has tended to focus on economic rights, where the US enshrined the idea of a balance between creators and public in the Constitution.

Granted, not all of this history can be as startling as the attempt Horten mentions in 561 by one Irish monk to prevent another from copying a manuscript, which culminated in the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne, in which people were actually killed. Everyone in the European Parliament lived to legislate another day.

The Copyright Enforcement Enigma: Internet Politics and the "Telecoms Package"
By Monica Horten
Palgrave Macmillan
275 pages
ISBN: 978-0-230-98771-7
£60

Wendy M Grossman

Topic: Reviews

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