Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Inimical to the public good

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  • Kyle Matthews,

    Why should the ISP be involved beyond passing on the notice from the alleged rights-holder (I say "alleged" because we've seen plenty of cases from the US of take-down notices being sent without any colour of right)? Why should they take an extra-judicial enforcement role? We don't expect them to do it when their customers are viewing objectionable material, we just expect them to pony up the info when presented with a search warrant. If you want people to sympathise with you, stop trying to drag third parties into your actions. Your beef is with the ISP's customer, not with the ISP. We don't hound Transit/councils and the car manufacturers in the event of a fatal car crash (except where the crash was actually caused by some negligence on their part), but they're clearly enablers of the driving that lead to the crash.

    I'll come back to this again.

    The idea that "I provide a service, I don't need to have any responsibility for how people use that service" is not always true in our society. Government provides roads and policing for those roads.

    I'm sympathetic to the argument that there's a limit to what ISPs can and should do about copyright breaches that occur using their service.

    But there's no principle in our society that says that provision of a service separates you from any responsibility at all for how that service is used. In some instances that's the case, in some it's not.

    But a considerable portion of ISP's business is built on the fact that people are now on the internet more, and downloading more, and spending more money on accounts at ISPs for downloading which is often involving a breach of copyright. It's not stretching things too far to say that most ISPs have and will benefited from the activities of their customers in breach of copyright.

    Surely there must be a sensible middle ground or new model which recognises that the world is changing and artists still need income to produce their work.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6145 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Re the technology/politico crossover: Obama campaign ads are now appearing in Xbox racing games!
    I forget the name of the business that built that technology but it was headed by New Zealanders before being sold for muchos dolleros - they sell billboard space inside the game on an ongoing basis, updated over the web. Tis uber neat.


    And re the music industry thing: I tend to agree with I/S re the industry model is broken beyond recognition and always will be. The question is do we give up on the commercialisation of artistic music altogether?

    And a work colleague of mine just wandered over and said his ISP - Xnet - has already sent him a letter claiming copyright breaches in his download and are going to shut him off. He had to call and explain he has flatmates/wireless isn't necessarily that secure etc before they finally capitulated but told him it was last chance. So it's already underway obviously.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1712 posts Report Reply

  • James Harton,

    It's not stretching things too far to say that most ISPs have and will benefited from the activities of their customers in breach of copyright.

    That's far from true. It costs money to deal with all the C&D letters and legal crap, for starters but most importantly, do you think there is more margin in Russell's high-cap broadband connection that he is flatlining the crap out of 24/7 or a suburban granny that pays for a 1GB cap and only uses it to occasionally email her grand kids?
    High traffic customers are a pain in the arse from a capacity planning and economic point of view. The idea that ISPs make a lot of money out of copyright infringement is rubbish, if anything all the grannies are subsidising your bittorrent.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2007 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    copyright breaches in his download and are going to shut him off. He had to call and explain he has flatmates/wireless isn't necessarily that secure etc before they finally capitulated but told him it was last chance.

    A group of Good People (TM) in Wellington have been working on a project called Freethenet. The idea is to provide free wireless round the city by using spare capacity that many of us have paid for but don't use. The idea is that it will help stimulate the view of the city as a go-ahaead savvy community.

    Obviously this act and these actions would prevent this work being successful which is a great shame.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1612 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp,

    Thanks Russell,

    I'm glad its not just me noticing the deficit of vision in John Key's eyes.

    I noted this morning...about Mr Key

    The one who used to be a successful derivatives trader at Merrill Lynch and SHOULD know more about this type of crisis appears to be alternately smug and clueless.

    Could it be that the very paradigm Mr Key was clearly successful in - might be his Achilles heel in this election campaign? Being good at abstract structured finance might not be such a good qualification for leading the real economy?

    We need Key to wake up and smell the new paradigm.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 208 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    A group of Good People (TM) in Wellington have been working on a project called Freethenet.

    link don, link. i've heard rumblings around this idea for awhile now.

    i'd gladly put some of this public service paycheque and my spare data cap to that project.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2018 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Russell's high-cap broadband connection that he is flatlining the crap out of 24/7

    I have, er, two of those connections. Good job, since Leo's been on the World of Warcraft Wrath of the Litch King beta programme ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17983 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    It costs money to deal with all the C&D letters and legal crap, for starters

    Which is precisely my point about taking some responsibility for the service you provide.

    do you think there is more margin in Russell's high-cap broadband connection that he is flatlining the crap out of 24/7 or a suburban granny that pays for a 1GB cap and only uses it to occasionally email her grand kids?

    I think the margin entirely depends on the user. I have a 20GB cap which I pay for all year around, in the northern summer (ice hockey off season) I'd top out at about 2GB a month. On season, I'd push up near 20 GB for 7 months.

    A decent proportion of the move from dialup to broadband (dialup, where it's still available, is dirt-cheap) relates to download speed and amount, and a decent amount of that relates to the downloading of music, tv shows, movies etc. It's also a factor for people upgrading their broadband accounts. It's not the only factor, but it's not a stretch to say "ISPs would have less total income if their users weren't downloading copyrighted material".

    Since Nov 2006 • 6145 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp,

    OOps I posted the comment just above here in the worng post
    should have been responding to this page

    the Odds

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 208 posts Report Reply

  • James Harton,

    Turnover != Profit. The only people making any margin on selling international capacity is Southern Cross Cable. If there were margins in international bandwidth then ISPs would be competing on it more. They are not.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2007 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    No ISP will ban anyone if they can possibly avoid it, since that's lost revenue. So the key question is 'how easy will it be for the ISP to refuse to act on the complaints?'. So long as they have a 'reasonable plan', that should be easy enough - they only need some semblance of due process as policy, that puts a whole bunch of the onus on the accuser to prove guilt, and that's the end of it. If that isn't enough they can also drag the chain on acting on complaints while they're at it.

    Basically, their real policy won't change, which is to sell bandwidth as dearly as they can to as many people as possible.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8040 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Turnover != Profit.

    That doesn't mean that turnover isn't important in business, particularly relatively new areas where growth and expansion is important.

    ISPs wouldn't be pushing and providing broadband with bigger caps if there wasn't something in it for them.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6145 posts Report Reply

  • Roger,

    A group of Good People (TM) in Wellington have been working on a project called Freethenet. The idea is to provide free wireless round the city by using spare capacity that many of us have paid for but don't use. The idea is that it will help stimulate the view of the city as a go-ahaead savvy community.

    Likewise:

    Tomizone

    And other sharing schemes

    Auckland • Since Jun 2007 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    But there's no principle in our society that says that provision of a service separates you from any responsibility at all for how that service is used. In some instances that's the case, in some it's not.

    You're right that responsibility isn't absolutely abrogated simply because you're a service provider. But the general principle is that you aren't responsible for what people do with services you provide. Telecom isn't responsible for the actions of people who make obscene phone calls, or who make extortion demands by phone. Vodafone isn't responsible for the actions of users who send threatening text messages.

    To keep it just to directly-related actions, ISPs aren't responsible for any other activities by their users. They're not responsible for users posting defamatory comments, or spamming, or looking at dodgy material, or breaking into computers. AKill's ISP wasn't prosecuted for enabling his bot net activities, for example.
    So why should they be made responsible for downloading? That's a dramatic policy shift, and I don't consider it to be reasonable. If the ISP refuses to disconnect a user in the face of a court order, that's one thing. But refusing to disconnect a user who's being accused on dubious grounds, by people who carry no risk if they're wrong, is something else entirely. There is no burden on the accuser to be right. There's no penalty if they're mistaken, or malicious, and that doesn't encourage accuracy. The carpet-bombing extortion tactics employed in the US by RIAA are directly related to the near-zero cost for being wrong. If there's a penalty for being wrong, it encourages accuracy. Take away the risk, and there's nothing to lose.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3733 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    ISPs wouldn't be pushing and providing broadband with bigger caps if there wasn't something in it for them.

    It's called getting volume. Making 1% margin on $1m of turnover is much nicer than making 10% on $50k. If you have high caps, you'll get users. People are shifting their usage patterns, and want to have the option of making heavy use of YouTube and other bandwidth guzzlers. That doesn't mean the ISP makes much money off them. In many cases, DSL is a loss maker. Once you account for Telecom's cut, a lot of the accounts out there are offering a gross margin to the ISP of two or three dollars. From that they have to provide network services, pay staff, and make a profit. If they make a buck out of those accounts, they're doing well.
    The high-cap accounts cost more, sure, but they also generally attract users who use more data, and that's expensive. We're fucked, as a country, by the Southern Cross monopoly on international transit. Capacity on that pipe has multiplied several times over in recent years, but we're still charged as though it's a scarce resource. Anything that has to come from offshore is chewing up ISP margins something awful. That's why services like Akamai are so popular with ISPs here.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3733 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    An interesting item from BBC online yesterday http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7664088.stm, suggesting that 'Almost 75% of music pirates would stop if told to by their ISP, the survey of 1,500 UK consumers found'.

    Excellent Media 7 taping last night, Russell.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2219 posts Report Reply

  • Roger,

    Telecom isn't responsible for the actions of people who make obscene phone calls, or who make extortion demands by phone. Vodafone isn't responsible for the actions of users who send threatening text messages.

    Actually Matthew there is a parrallel here, I am certain that Telecom would be responsive to complaints of obscene phone calls and the cellphone operators are moving to curtail schoolyard bullying. Vodafone for one will:

    ...warn the bully, stopping texting from their account, temporarily barring their account or even permanently deactivating their account from our network

    And Telstra is setting up systems for their ISP services

    Auckland • Since Jun 2007 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    're fucked, as a country, by the Southern Cross monopoly on international transit. Capacity on that pipe has multiplied several times over in recent years, but we're still charged as though it's a scarce resource. Anything that has to come from offshore is chewing up ISP margins something awful. That's why services like Akamai are so popular with ISPs here.

    Roll on the Kordia-PipeNet cable! And from Kapiti if possible.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3912 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    But the general principle is that you aren't responsible for what people do with services you provide.

    I don't think anyone is arguing that the ISPs are responsible. They're not being taken to court for breach of copyright.

    I think it's a valid point that the ISPs should have some involvement and commitment to a system which upholds laws in the countries they're in, on their network.

    How to make that practical and viable for both ends of the issue, I have yet to hear what seems like sensible solutions.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6145 posts Report Reply

  • Clarke,

    @Mark:

    Here's a service I would gladly pay for. As a (sometime) audio geek, I find the quality of all MP3s simply appalling, and would happily pay a premium for music encoded with at least a lossless encoder, and preferably completely uncompressed.

    In an ideal world, there would be a sliding scale of quality vs price - if I'm prepared to drop some serious money, I could get something that approximates the original digital multitrack in native or SACD or DVD-A format. Accompanied by the high-res cover art, album notes and all the rest.

    Nobody offers this. And it seems the only reason non-one's making money off my audio geekery is because of the industry's paranoia about distribution of hi-res music. So at the moment I still buy the physical CDs, then copy them uncompressed to the music server.

    And while I'm pie-in-the-sky dreaming, can we please see some recognition from the local industry that the pricing models will have to change - in an online world, trying to pretend that a US$7.99 new release magically becomes 30% more expensive when it arrives in NZ is simply a nonsense.

    But for all that, thanks for being one of the few people in the industry that's interested in having these conversations.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 76 posts Report Reply

  • Clarke,

    @Mark:

    Here's a service I would gladly pay for. As a (sometime) audio geek, I find the quality of all MP3s simply appalling, and would happily pay a premium for music encoded with at least a lossless encoder, and preferably completely uncompressed.

    In an ideal world, there would be a sliding scale of quality vs price - if I'm prepared to drop some serious money, I could get something that approximates the original digital multitrack in native or SACD or DVD-A format. Accompanied by the high-res cover art, album notes and all the rest.

    Nobody offers this. And it seems the only reason non-one's making money off my audio geekery is because of the industry's paranoia about distribution of hi-res music. So at the moment I still buy the physical CDs, then copy them uncompressed to the music server.

    And while I'm pie-in-the-sky dreaming, can we please see some recognition from the local industry that the pricing models will have to change - in an online world, trying to pretend that a US$7.99 new release magically becomes 30% more expensive when it arrives in NZ is simply a nonsense.

    But for all that, thanks for being one of the few people in the industry that's interested in having these conversations.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 76 posts Report Reply

  • Clarke,

    @Mark:

    Here's a service I would gladly pay for. As a (sometime) audio geek, I find the quality of all MP3s simply appalling, and would happily pay a premium for music encoded with at least a lossless encoder, and preferably completely uncompressed.

    In an ideal world, there would be a sliding scale of quality vs price - if I'm prepared to drop some serious money, I could get something that approximates the original digital multitrack in native or SACD or DVD-A format. Accompanied by the high-res cover art, album notes and all the rest.

    Nobody offers this. And it seems the only reason non-one's making money off my audio geekery is because of the industry's paranoia about distribution of hi-res music. So at the moment I still buy the physical CDs, then copy them uncompressed to the music server.

    And while I'm pie-in-the-sky dreaming, can we please see some recognition from the local industry that the pricing models will have to change - in an online world, trying to pretend that a US$7.99 new release magically becomes 30% more expensive when it arrives in NZ is simply a nonsense.

    But for all that, thanks for being one of the few people in the industry that's interested in having these conversations.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 76 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    It's worth mentioning as an aside that today 33% of the NZ album chart is local and the number 1, 8 & 10 singles are also local. It's a day I doubted I'd ever see.

    70% of those NZ albums are indie too. Quite something!

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3185 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    In an ideal world, there would be a sliding scale of quality vs price - if I'm prepared to drop some serious money, I could get something that approximates the original digital multitrack in native or SACD or DVD-A format.

    A lot of specialist DJ suppliers, like Cytopia do just this and offer WAV/FLAC/320k MP3 files. I though iTunes did lossless now as well.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4221 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Actually Matthew there is a parrallel here, I am certain that Telecom would be responsive to complaints of obscene phone calls and the cellphone operators are moving to curtail schoolyard bullying.

    Obscene phone calls are a crime. Police, courts, prosecution, fines, etc. I suspect a good case could be made that bullying texts are in the same league. Copyright infringement in the form of downloading is not a crime. Completely different things. If a telco fails to act against instances of misuse of a telephone, it's complicit in a criminal act. The telco can also look at records and see that calls/texts were made/received. An ISP has little more than a record of bytes transferred. Certainly they don't record the contents of every packet, which is what's required to establish that someone might have been downloading something they shouldn't. Though they could have been downloading something entirely legit through P2P, which these days is quite common.

    I'm not going to be convinced that notice-and-notice is unworkable. Sorry, but it's not going to happen. The copyright holders are making the ISPs do their dirty work, and then leaving the ISPs to be the fall guys if they've got it wrong. That's bullshit, to put it bluntly. By all means require the ISPs to pass on take-down notices, and comply with court orders to supply details, but don't make the ISPs extra-judicial enforcers.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3733 posts Report Reply

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