Copyright advocates slam ISPs for not stopping piracy

EU Commissioner vows to improve copyright laws

Representatives of the music industry attacked Internet service providers (ISPs) on Wednesday at the World Copyright Summit in Brussels.

Representatives of the music industry attacked ISPs on Wednesday at the World Copyright Summit in Brussels.

Panelists strongly criticized ISPs for refusing to engage with rights owners and for continuing to claim that they are mere "conduits" in the digital marketplace. These copyright holders want ISPs to go further in policing the behavior of customers who repeatedly download copyright material illegally.

"Over the last 10 years artists' rights have suffered dreadfully while the ISPs have seen ongoing year-on-year profits," said Irish barrister Gavin Bonnar. He also said that according to some predictions 1.2 million jobs will have disappeared from the creative sector by 2015 because of piracy.

Christophe Depretter, the chief executive of SABAM -- the Belgian society of authors, composers and publishers -- also pleaded poverty, saying that his collection societies' turnover has fallen €20 million (US$35 million) since 2002 due to declining mechanical revenues on the back of increased piracy.

Meanwhile BeeGees singer Robin Gibb (and president of CISAC, the International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies ) said that he believed copyright is under attack.

"Creators must be allowed to benefit from their creations. Authors must receive what is properly due to them," Gibb said.

It was left to Europe's Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes to raise the issue of what customers want: "Almost every week, I receive emails and letters from frustrated citizens who would like to legal access their favorite music, films or ebooks. It is hard to know what to say to them. Surely creators would like to spread their art across boundaries, and obtain the credit and royalties they deserve -- indeed it is difficult to imagine otherwise."

The Commission made clear in its Intellectual Property Strategy, released last month, that it wanted a change in the copyright framework. A further green paper on the distribution of audiovisual works is also due in the coming weeks.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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