New online privacy laws UK
What do the new Piracy Laws mean to you?
Voice of Russia interview with Yair Cohen, social media lawyer with Cohen Davis Solicitors
The reason why they draft online piracy act is so controversial is mainly because it signals beginning of the regulation of the internet. So far the internet has been to an extent a lawless land where anyone could say anything and people steal out the people’s material, people share, people say things about other people. And now there seem to be a move in the United States towards regulating the internet. In what the online piracy act is saying is that any web site or any service provider of the internet who is somehow involved in either facilitating the sell of piracy, facilitating the sell let’s say of music, illegally downloaded music or anything like that, as long as they are involved in that they could be actually held a criminally liable for the theft of the material, for the breach of the copyright. And a lot of people don’t like it because they say “hang on for a second, the internet is all about sharing, is all about making things available for everyone“ and if you are going to start penalizing or criminalizing companies such as, I don’t know, PayPal could potentially be held criminally liable under this law for facilitating the transaction of the sell of fake items or sell of music which the person is selling and hasn’t got a right to sell it. So it is very similar to demand and longing for regulations all over the world where people such as lawyer suddenly become responsible, or bankers could become responsible facilitating this. And people don’t like it because it’s a big change, it’s a major change to the way we see the internet and there is a lot of controversy about the phenomenon.
But Mr. Cohen, whether internet hacking, so widespread these days, do I get it right that this law makes all web site owners more vulnerable because if a hacker introduces something into the website and a man isn’t even aware of that is he still liable?
The suggestion is that once the owner of the website, or once the facilitator has become aware of any sort of breach or any sort of illegal sharing or illegal sell of material on the internet only then would they become liable in terms of the law.
Consumer rights activists think that the law actually amounts to violating the freedom of speech, of communication.
I think there are two ways to look at it. File sharing is where I for instance purchase a music CD, put it to my computer and I make it available for my friends or family or sometimes for other people for money, I make it available for them so instead of them buying this music CD in the shop they download it either for free or paying me a fee through my computer. So yes, it will restrict the ability to share but at the same time it will create a new sense of responsibility and awareness that the internet is not a lawless land and the anarchy to an extent will have to stop. So you could see why people who favour complete and total freedom of speech might get a little bit concerned about it because they might be liable if they share things that don’t belong to them with other people.
As far as I understand it is not only about sharing files, is it?
No, it is not about sharing files it is about facilitating sell of anything which shouldn’t really be sold or anything that the person hasn’t got a right to sell or hasn’t got a right to even offer for sell. Mainly it is to do with the copyright for music or the copyright for films. So let’s say you have a small enterprise producing a film, hoping to make a little bit of money and once the film is out, it is then being shared by everyone on the internet, so the people who produced this film cannot possibly make any money out of it, in fact nobody is going to buy it from them, because it is available for free through Ada providers or sometimes for even a fee, so people who received the fee are not the people who really created this movie. So there will be restrictions on what can be offered and can not be offered. But I think the issue of freedom of speech is more about the very idea of regulating the internet and there are people who are concerned that once you start regulating the internet then there’s going to be more burden placed on service providers such as lets say Google. So if material is being sold or offered for sale on a blog which belongs to Google, then Google could be responsible for that and they don’t like it.
In fact I’m just looking at a letter; well it is called “an open letter” and it’s been signed by a long list of American professors. Of course they are also protesting against the law and just let me quote from it, it says that: “the act would undermine and dramatically diminish the internet’s capability to be a functioning communications medium”. I think it is just what you’ve been talking to us about. They say that: “in conclusion passage of the act will compromise our ability to defend the principle of the single global internet”.
Of course, because at the moment the internet service providers in the United States enjoy pretty much complete freedom, they are not liable to anything which is going on on the websites which they own. They do make money out of these websites, some of them, but they are not liable for anything, they only saying “look, if you are taking part in a theft,” ok, it’s not a physical theft, it’s theft of intellectual property, “if you take part in a theft, if you facilitate a theft, if you facilitate something which is illegal, then you should be held responsible for that.” It is the same position as it is with tangible asset, if you facilitate a theft, if you take part, if you play a part in theft, then surely that the law would hold you pretty much anywhere in the world liable for your part of facilitating that. So to suggest that holding people liable facilitating illegal activity on the internet isn’t any different to facilitating the same illegal activity off-line. I think some of these people who, these professors and there is another letter written jointly by many Facebook, Twitter, the main internet service providers in the world, they signed a joint letter to Congress apparently, and they are saying the same things, but one has got enough scores for motivation for doing that because there is always a victim, there always going to be a victim. If you have a complete freedom of speech there are going to be people who are going to be suffering, going to be people whose reputation is going to be done, there are going to be people whose family life, work, job, there’re going to be some very personal stories of people who pay the price for this freedom. And if there is freedom to exchange links and exchange movies or music or whatever there are going to be some individuals who are going to be suffering, who are going to be, you know, maybe they’ve invested all their savings into producing something, and then it is just freely available in the internet and nobody is seems to be responsible for that. Nobody, you know, is expecting anything free in life, even the freedom of speech is not free completely, there is always someone who is going to pay a price for it.