Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


The IPKat reports that someone's got a high-court order to go force ISPs to reveal the identities of people accused of file-sharing. The twist in the tail being that this is not, as one might have expected, a record company, but a games developer:
The IPKat noticed this article (also noted here and here), which reports that computer game developer Topware Interactive (previously reported by the IPKat in relation to a recent related patents court decision here) have now managed to get a further high court order to force UK ISPs to reveal the identities of thousands of people believed to be involved in internet file sharing.

This development, although apparently a surprise to ISPs, comes as no surprise to the IPKat, who saw no reason why such a move couldn't have been done before, an obvious target for such a move being music file sharing (see previous posts here, here, here, here and here). What the IPKat didn't expect is that the computer games industry would steal a march on the music industry and go ahead with taking action against individual file sharers. He wonders what will happen now, and how many alleged infringers will have the nerve to resist the settlement offer.
It'll be interesting (for values of interesting that may include "horrifying") to see what happens from here. Hopefully this is just a one-off, and we're not opening the floodgates to a repeat of the madness of the RIAA lawsuits in the US, but we'll have to see. Usually I wouldn't be too optimistic, but the Kat's rather snarky closing comments actually do give me some grounds for hope.

An interesting comment made here is that the games involved in this action are allegedly mostly second rate, and didn't sell many copies. Is this a justification for going after people found copying these games, to make poor games pay? Does it matter? The IPKat thought that copyright infringement was the same regardless of the quality of the material, but this view is apparently not universally shared.

This is silly. The quality of the game has nothing to do with it - it's the fact that no-one was gong to buy it that matters. Yes, in a perfect legal world there'd be all copyright infringment would be duly punished, but the whole point about getting ISPs to give up users' identities is that it is, in itself, a harm. So the question becomes one of weighing relative harms[1].

Now say what you like about the RIAA, but it's members did at least sell some records, and so could at least try to make the case that all those downloads constituted lost sales, and that there was a serious harm here that needed to be remedies. It wasn't a very good case, but they could at least find adults to make it with a straight face, until it became apparent just how ridiculous and disproportionate the whole process was. Seems to me that that'll happen rather more quickly when the company leading the British charge against file-sharers are a Mickey Mouse games develper hoping that someone will download thier shitty product so that they can sue them.

But I'm probably being far too optimistic.

[1] Personally, I'm a strong believer in the idea that users' right to privacy is more-or-less never worth compromising for cases of copyright theft - they're just computer games, people, and there are other ways to make money off them.


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