Daiwa EuroTelcoblog No. 56: Thursday, 8th July, 2004 - Tiscali sued for enabling piracy
I just came across a news item on DigitalMusicNews.com which says that pan-European ISP Tiscali is being sued in a Belgian court by SABAM, a Belgian music and publishing industry group representing 25,000 artists. The suit claims that Tiscali contributes to copyright infringement by not attempting to block or degrade traffic from P2P file sharing sites. Previous actions against file sharing have focused on end-users and the P2P networks themselves, but this is the first time that I am aware of when the industry has attempted to sue a perceived "enabler" of copyright infringement.
Legal music download services such as the many white-labeled services operated by OD2 (http://www.ondemanddistribution.com/eng/home/home.asp) probably represent a decent new revenue opportunity for the European telcos and their ISP units. However, if this case is successful and sets a precedent for future European lawsuits based on the concept of inducement, those with a widespread ISP presence in Europe (France Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Tele2 spring to mind) could also find themselves on the receiving ends of multiple legal actions in each market.
This development also disturbingly mirrors trends in the US, where Republican Senator Orrin Hatch (co-sponsor of the controversial [some would say infamous] PIRATE Act) is now sponsoring the bill known as the Inducing Infringement of Copyright Act, which targets those parties which "intentionally induce" piracy. Applied in its widest interpretation, this act could probably be applied to a very wide range of companies, from producers of MP3 players and PVRs to broadband ISPs and also sites such as CNET and Tucows, which host downloads of P2P software, as well as many other applications. Whether Europe would be as extreme in its legislative response is questionable, but my sense is that, having failed to shut down P2P networks, and having been widely criticized for suing impoverished teenagers and grandparents whose computers were unwittingly used for file sharing, the media industry now looks intent on squeezing the intermediaries or enablers, which must certainly include the telcos and their ISP units.