One in three people in Switzerland download unauthorized music, movies and games from the Internet and since last year the government has been wondering what to do about it. This week their response was published and it was crystal clear. Not only will downloading for personal use stay completely legal, but the copyright holders won’t suffer because of it, since people eventually spend the money saved on entertainment products.
In Switzerland, just as in dozens of other countries, the entertainment industries have been complaining about dramatic losses in revenue due to online piracy.
In a response, the Swiss government has been conducting a study into the impact downloading has on society, and this week their findings were presented.
The overall conclusion of the study is that the current copyright law, under which downloading copyrighted material for personal use is permitted, doesn’t have to change.
Their report begins with noting that when it comes to copying files, the Internet has proven a game-changer. While the photocopier, audio cassette tape and VCR allowed users to make good quality copies of various media, these devices lacked a in-built distribution method. The world-wide web changed all that.
Distribution method or not, the entertainment industries have opposed all these technological inventions out of fear that their businesses would be crushed. This is not the right response according to the Swiss government, which favors the option of putting technology to good use instead of taking the repressive approach.
“Every time a new media technology has been made available, it has always been ‘abused’. This is the price we pay for progress. Winners will be those who are able to use the new technology to their advantages and losers those who missed this development and continue to follow old business models,” the report notes.
The government report further concludes that even in the current situation where piracy is rampant, the entertainment industries are not necessarily losing money. To reach this conclusion, the researchers extrapolated the findings of a study conducted by the Dutch government last year, since the countries are considered to be similar in many aspects.
The report states that around a third of Swiss citizens over 15 years old download pirated music, movies and games from the Internet. However, these people don’t spend less money as a result because the budgets they reserve for entertainment are fairly constant. This means that downloading is mostly complementary.
The other side of piracy, based on the Dutch study, is that downloaders are reported to be more frequent visitors to concerts, and game downloaders actually bought more games than those who didn’t. And in the music industry, lesser-know bands profit most from the sampling effect of file-sharing.
The Swiss report then goes on to review several of the repressive anti-piracy laws and regulations that have been implemented in other countries recently, such as the three-strikes Hadopi law in France. According to the report 12 million was spent on Hadopi in France this year, a figure the Swiss deem too high.
The report further states that it is questionable whether a three-strikes law would be legal in the first place, as the UN’s Human Rights Council labeled Internet access a human right. The Council specifically argued that Hadopi is a disproportionate law that should be repealed.
Other measures such as filtering or blocking content and websites are also rejected, because these would hurt freedom of speech and violate privacy protection laws. The report notes that even if these measures were implemented, there would be several ways to circumvent them.
The overall suggestion the Swiss government communicates to the entertainment industries is that they should adapt to the change in consumer behavior, or die. They see absolutely no need to change the law because downloading has no proven negative impact on the production of national culture.
Aside from downloading, it is also practically impossible for companies in Switzerland to go after casual uploaders. In 2010 the Supreme Court ruled that tracking companies are not allowed to log IP-addresses of file-sharers, making it impossible for rightsholders to gather evidence.
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