Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Police ‘n’ Copyrights

There have been three interesting stories about the relationship between police and copyrights on the internet in recent times and I thought to bring them to your attention as an illustration of how (even the most) average of people can sometimes run into trouble when it comes to copyright law.

The first example concerns the South Australian Police who had their IT system audited earlier this year. The auditor found the prevalence of copyright films on the network to be so wide spread that disciplinary action was not taken. According to reports in The Australian:

HUNDREDS of police officers across South Australia caught using their work computers to illegally copy movie DVDs will escape prosecution. The activity - strictly banned under federal copyright laws - was detected during an audit conducted by the information technology branch of SA Police.

In Sweden recent reports have also highlighted the fact that one of the police who investigated and conducted the raids on the Pirate Bay actually entered into a contract with Warner Music during the course of the investigation - bringing the validity and impartiality of the whole investigation into question.

More recently in the UK, the PRS (Performing Rights Society) accused 34 police stations of failing to pay the license fees for the playing of music in a place open to the public – namely the police stations.

These examples, whilst in different jurisdictions and different in nature, nonetheless contribute to a wider perception, particularly held by the youth, that copyright law is out of date with current social behaviour and therefore not deserving of compliance. This is demonstrated by statistics which continually highlight the fact that file sharing is primarily undertaken by young people despite the ongoing education campaigns and publicity relating to file sharing lawsuits.

When young people are unable to indentify with the basis for laws many are likely to not only react against those laws but inevitably other unrelated laws as well. Disrespect for one set of laws therefore contributes to a fracturing of the wider social order.

When those in positions of authority do not comply, this furthers perceptions that the law is out of step and when they are not reprimanded or held accountable for their actions this leads to a perception of hypocrisy and mistrust.

To maintain social cohesion, there is a basic need for the majority of the population to comply with rules. In order to do this the general population must know of these rules, understand them and develop appropriate patterns of behaviour. One of the key arguments given against the present copyright regime is that these laws are so far from current social standards that they breed disrespect for the law.

Further Reading
TechDirt, Australian Police: Cracking Down On Piracy... Except When The Police Are The Pirates (8 April 2008) <http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080408/100432788.shtml> at 17 June 2008

The Australian, DVD piracy too rife among police to prosecute (7 April 2008) <http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23495134-5006787,00.html> ay 17 June 2008

TechDirt, Warner Music Admits It Hired Police Investigator Before The Pirate Bay Investigation Was Complete (5 June 2008)
<http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080605/1646031320.shtml> at 17 June 2008

TechDirt, UK Police Accused Of Violating Copyright By Listening To Music In Police Stations (12 June 2008) <http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080612/1158191390.shtml> at 17 June 2008

TorrentFreak, Police Chief Faces High Court Anti-Piracy Action (12 June 2008) <http://torrentfreak.com/police-chief-faces-high-court-anti-piracy-action-120608/> at 17 June 2008

This Is Lancashire, Lancashire Police face music over copyright (12 June 2008) <http://www.thisislancashire.co.uk/news/lancashirenews/display.var.2336965.0.lancashire_police_face_music_over_copyright.php> at 17 June 2008

The NPD Group, Consumers Acquire More Music in 2007, But Spend Less (26 February 2008) <http://www.npd.com/press/releases/press_080226a.html> at 27 February 2008

Digital Music News, Piper Jaffray Study Indicates Lowered Teenage Swapping (12 October 2007) <http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/stories/101107study> at 15 October 2007

Slyck, P2P Downloading Still a Top Choice for Kids (30 January 2008) <http://www.slyck.com/story1651_P2P_Downloading_Still_a_Top_Choice_for_Kids> at 31 January 2008

The Age, 95% of music downloads are illegal (25 January 2008) <http://www.theage.com.au/news/web/95-of-music-downloads-are-illegal/2008/01/24/1201025084723.html> at 31 January 2008

Slyck, P2P Downloads Crush iTunes/Digital Sales 20:1 (24 January 2008) <http://www.slyck.com/story1642_P2P_Downloads_Crush_iTunesDigital_Sales_201> at 31 January 2008

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