posted by Thom Holwerda on Sat 7th Nov 2009 11:22 UTC
IconEvery now and then you come across these news items that make just too much sense to be true. Earlier this year, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry threatened Norway's largest ISP, Telenor: block access to The Pirate Bay within 14 days, or face legal action. Telenor refused to comply - so it went to court. In what can only be seen as a major victory, the judge sided with Telenor.

When the IFPI first threatened Telenor in March 2009, the ISP already made it clear it wouldn't budge, claiming the threats had no legal basis. "This would be the same as demanding that the postal service should open all letters, and decide which ones should be delivered," said Telenor boss Ragnar Kårhus back then.

The IFPI indeed kept its word, and sued Telenor, and the case went to trial in October. A verdict was supposed to come October 30, but was delayed until yesterday. The verdict is a big slap in the face of the IFPI: the court ruled that simply by giving access to The Pirate Bay, Telenor is not contributing to copyright infringement, and as such, there is no legal basis to force the ISP to block access to The Pirate Bay.

"Obviously we are pleased that the District Court has arrived at this conclusion," said Kårhus, "At the same time it is important for us to emphasize that this case is not about being in favor of or opposed to copyright, but about whether or not it is reasonable to saddle Internet service providers with a censorship role in respect of content on the Internet."

That's already a lot of common sense to take in all at once - but wait, there's more! The court also considered the implications of ruling against Telenor, and came to the conclusion that blocking access to certain internet sites should be the task of the authorities, and not of private organisations. My Common-sense-o-meter sky-rocketed right there.

Kårhus also said that the healthy way for the music and film industry to compete in this new world is to develop business models and services that will lure people away from sites like The Pirate Bay.

This notion is actually at the core of recently proposed initiative by the Dutch government. In the proposal, the government wants to forbid downloading of copyrighted material from "obviously illegal sources" (currently it's legal here), but in return, the music and film industry have to develop viable alternatives to downloading. The industry should develop these new models in three years. At the same time, oversight on copyright organisations (RIAA/MPAA-like organisations) will be tightened.

In and of itself, this is a very reasonable proposal. The problem, of course, is that the government is assuming that the music/film industry actually can come up with new distribution methods - but this is the industry whose only new business model in the past decades has been Sue Like Crazy™. Little is expected to come out of their corner.

The market for copyrighted music and films is rust stuck, and it will take a lot more than kind requests from the government to get them to move. Luckily, there are more sensible proposals out there too.

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