Musicweek just published an article about the deliberations on funding a Digital Rights Agency in the UK that's full of inside baseball ... but read between the lines, and you'll find more proof that the whole three strikes idea may sound great on paper (to rights holders, anyway), but it's really tough to implement. First, a little background:

The Birtish music industry was able to threaten local ISPs into helping them fight P2P file sharing last summer. Six big UK ISPs agreed to send warning letters to file sharers in a limited trial, and the British government was going to oversee the process.

The British music industry celebrated this as a first step towards a three strikes system that would eventually boot repeat infringers off the Internet, but ISPs were quick to point out that they have no plans to rid themselves of their customers. Government officials quickly joined in after citizens began to ask tough questions. The officially sanctioned version of what was going on began to sound a little like this: This is only a test run, we'll have consultations, form working groups, establish a process, maybe come up with an agency with fancy name but without a clearly defined role. Nothing to see here, move along

And that's exactly where we are now. The agency that is supposed to solve all problems with P2P piracy will be called the "Digital Rights Agency", and it's still unclear what it's supposed to do. Sure, everyone has their own laundry lists. ISPs would like it to keep them out of trouble, the music industry wants, you guessed it, three strikes, and American Idol boss Tony Cohen even wants the agency to collect micropayments so he can make more money with videos of teenagers embarrassing themselves in front of a TV audience.

All of these wishes are collected right now, according to Musikweek, and some people are even keeping track of the potential costs:

"The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Department for Culture Media and Sport have just opened a consultation on how such a body would work and has estimated – depending on the agency’s eventual structure – that it could cost at least £2.5m."

Darn. 2.5 million British pounds. That's a lot of money, even with the recent decline of the UK's currency. Why would it be so expensive? Again, Musicweek:

"The ministers state, 'There are a range of options for the agency. At one end of the scale it could be a very light touch organisation acting in a similar way to the Advertising Standards Authority… at the other end of the scale, the agency could be a substantial self-regulatory body, working under the authority of the regulator to draft codes of practice.' The latter setup, it is estimated, would require a staff of around 50 to run it, and would need a “minimum budget” of £2.5m"

And no, that's not tax payer money we're talking about here. Record labels would be required to cough up almost half of it, with the rest coming from ISPs. Problem is, most record labvels don't really have much spare change these days. The industry has already cut back on its own anti-piracy efforts and fired a bunch of people at industry associations like the RIAA. Some apparently now feel like it may not be worth to pump another million into a new organization. Musikweek quotes one exec with the following words:

"£2m might be a bit steep. The question is, will the agency bring filesharing to a tolerable level? I’m not sure it will."


Of course, that's good news. Major record labels have for years abused courts all over the world by swamping them with lawsuits that didn't have any measurable impact of file sharing. Now they are asked to share some of the burden - and start to wonder whether it's really worth it.

Tags: , , ,