European politicians don’t always have a good reputation. They are perceived as a bunch of people who just chat, cost money and don’t have any real powers. But they have made a decision which will be significant as far as the Internet is concerned.
The European Parliament has voted out proposals to ban persistent “file sharers” from the Internet. Several European governments and huge pressure from the record industry led to arguments in favour of banning file sharers from having accounts with Internet Service Providers. But the European politicians narrowly threw out those notions because they conflicted with the Europe-wide stance on personal freedom.
Now as someone who used to work in the record industry, I’m convinced of the need for musicians and artistes to be paid for their creative work and their entertainment. But as I said last year when writing about buying music online, the record industry is rather like King Canute – expecting the problem to go away. It won’t. They have to accept that selling recorded music is no longer an option for them; they have to find other ways of making money from music.
The European politicians have noted that. Also, they realised that it’s not actually possible to ban anyone from an account with an ISP. They can set up another identity and carry on as normal. Even if they cannot create a new “self”, they can use someone else’s Internet connection to download music.
So although the politicians voted out the proposals on “freedom” grounds, it recognises the fact that what the phonographic industry and national governments want is complete nonsense. Even though the European decision has no legal status, it sends a signal to those wanting the bans that they need to think again. First step, perhaps, would be for the music industry and national governments to try to understand the Internet and the psychology behind why young people in particular are never likely to want to pay for music.