Ericsson exec calls for rethink on EU piracy laws

Mobile maker Ericsson's Director of Government and Industry Relations has called on European law-makers to change the way we are all allowed to consume digital content.

Writing in the latest issue of Ericsson Business Review, Rene Summer makes a scathing attack on Big Media and the way it restricts access to content across Europe by erecting judicial walls which serve only the interests of economic rights holders.

"Through a series of legislative Checkpoint Charlies‚ of which copyright abuse is the most prominent example, these economic-rights holders determine how, when, where and by whom legal digital content can be accessed in Europe," he writes.

Despite numerous calls from a wide range of consumer organisations, Summer says, "The gatekeepers refuse to relinquish their posts or look beyond their immediate self-interests. By clinging to outdated business methods such as windowing and territoriality, economic-rights holders are in fact creating the consumer behaviour against which they so violently protest.

"Current restrictions have forced European consumers into a digital exile. Seeking an appropriate way to access legal digital content, and unable to satisfy this legitimate desire through a legitimate digital alternative, many resort to illegal file-sharing."

He is, of course, referring to the prevalence of piracy, a phenomenon he suggests is encouraged by the tactics of rights holders.

“File-sharing is a symptom of a problem, rather than a problem in itself," writes. "This problem is the inadequate availability of legal, timely, competitively priced and wide-ranging choices of affordable digital-content offerings. Consumers also expect to be able to make decisions freely regarding when and how to consume the content of their choice."

Summer places the blame for the current state of affairs - where content providers ride roughsod over consumers by hiding behind outdated laws written in a time before the explosion in online media and digital downloads - on the lawmakers themselves.

"The position taken by the economic rights holders may be unpalatable, but it is at least understandable. It is more difficult to comprehend the acquiescence of the European authorities in preserving this digital Iron Curtain."

Summer describes the issue as a pan-European problem which he says must be addressed firmly across the continent and says that efforts to revise existing legislation to meet the demands of the digital age have failed.

"The success of our European project is founded upon freedom of movement‚ for persons, goods, services and capital," he writes. "Why should digital content be an exception? How can policy makers continue to endorse the vested interests of economic rights holders at the expense of the promises of the single market and our fundamental freedoms?

"Targeted policy reforms that stimulate the growth of a well-functioning supply of legal digital content available on-demand for multiple screens are needed if actors at all stages of the value chain are to develop products that successfully meet the evolving needs of consumers," he says.

Summer says that Ericsson is calling for "full consumer access to legal, timely, competitively priced and wide-ranging compelling content offerings, and a free choice of when, where and how this legal digital content can be consumed," as well as an end to regulatory barriers and deliberate non-availability through windowing and territoriality."

The mobile maker is also says that Internet service providers should no longer be forced to act as digital security agents on behalf of economic rights holders by listening in, screening, surveying and filtering the exchange of information between consumers.

"Such strict enforcement further damages the prospects of legal digital alternatives by introducing the principle of innovation by permission," he writes.

It's a compelling argument, and one none of us would expect to hear from a position so high up the corporate ladder. Whether those in similar positions within those companies currently holding all of the digital cards will take note is a very different matter. But we'll leave the last word to Mr Summer.

"Europe is as much a system of values as a collection of states, and these values demand the creation of a digital future that benefits all Europeans, not just a few."

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