The UK's anti-piracy laws are feeble and place the entertainment retail sector in grave danger of further closures and economic damage.
That was the opinion of some of the games industry's most notable figures this week, as the domestic trade called on the Government to emulate France's new legal clampdown on illegal downloaders.
The French bill, passed into draft law last week, will see illegal downloaders of games, music and movies sent two warnings, first by email and then by recorded delivery.
Following these cautions, the offender's details will be passed to a judge – who has the power to cut off internet access and issue heavy fines or even prison sentences.
The UK Government is working with internet service providers on plans to bring in a similar ‘three strikes' approach – but has so far avoided mention of court action.
Nintendo applauds France for approving this legislation,” Nintendo's European anti-piracy boss Neil Boyd told MCV. We hope that other Member States will see this as an example of a country attempting to significantly reduce illegal file sharing and recognising the important collaborative role that ISPs can play in doing so.
Rights holders, ISPs and consumers have a common interest in recognising that internet piracy is a serious problem with consequence for those who break the law.”
HMV CEO Simon Fox added:
The impact of piracy and illegal file sharing on content owners is well known, but there has been less attention given to the impact on retailers and indeed on the High Streets of the UK. It is difficult to believe that piracy and illegal P2P downloading did not contribute to the demise of national entertainment retailers such as Zavvi, Woolworths and Music Zone. The impact has been particularly pronounced for many hundreds of local independent stores.”
He added: We therefore support the active steps being taken by the French Government to crackdown on piracy and illegal file sharing, and would encourage the UK Government to press forward with similar legislation.”
The new chairman of the Entertainment Retailers Association Paul Quirk claimed that internet piracy ‘is bleeding our industry dry'.
Too often the debate over illegal filesharing is portrayed as an ideological battle, but for us this is a commercial matter,” he said. Illegal file sharing is damaging our businesses on a daily basis.”
A THIRD WAY?
Not every member of the industry is certain France's heavy-handed treatment is the best route forward.
Namco Bandai UK marketing manager David Miller told MCV:
As a publisher, the reflex action is to support the [French] legislation, but do we all really still believe that it's either realistic or in the best interests of an industry (and a world for that matter) going through a genuine revolution?
I think we are becoming aware of two uncomfortable truths. Firstly, the upsurge of the infrastructure of piracy, fuelled by Moore's Law, the ubiquity of broadband, the proliferation of peer-to-peer and torrents, increasing storage and general access and ease of use. And secondly that Generation Y is growing up in a culture that just feels differently about media consumption. Is it right to criminalise young people for that?
The developers, publishers and service providers that can embrace the new economic paradigms and the opportunities presented by the digital revolution will thrive. And by that I mean free, freemium, ad-funded, microtransaction and subscription.
"The bottom line is that in the long-term, we will all be required to view the marketplace as an ecosystem where only some of the players exchange cash some of the time – rather than the old fashioned idea of just a buyer and a seller.”