Earlier this week I attended a seminar in Brussels on the "telecoms package" currently before the European Parliament [partial video]. One of the most controversial elements in the package are the prospect for mandated ISP filtering or blocking of allegedly copyright infringing materials. Those requirements would build on other national and international developments including the still-secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and the "three strikes and you're out" policies ("graduated response") in some European countries.
The seminar was illuminating since all of the most vocal stakeholders were in attendance (either as part of the panel or in the audience) and most were pretty transparent about their interests in the issue. I walked away with the following scorecard:
Rights holder groups – They are frustrated with the ineffectiveness of DRM and anti-circumvention legislation and so have moved to other "solutions" focused on the role of ISPs and technology companies. Their emphasis is now on forcing ISPs to drop subscribers that are alleged to infringe (graduated response), mandated inclusion of anti-copying technologies into consumer devices ("technical mandates"), ISP filtering/blocking of infringing content, and stronger cross-border enforcement initiatives (ACTA).
Telecom companies – They oppose filtering requirements, which are viewed as expensive and ineffective. They are more comfortable with terminating high volume Internet subscribers, particularly file sharers (ie. recent UK graduated response agreement).
Software companies – Represented by the Business Software Alliance at the seminar, they oppose technical mandates, which are viewed as encroachment on their ability to innovate. They favour the continued use of DRM, which their members sell, as well as graduated response.
Technology companies – Represented by Intel at the seminar, they also oppose filtering and technical mandates, which are viewed as encroachment on their ability to innovate. Clear support for DRM and self-regulated technical mandates (ie. industry negotiated digital lock standards).
The consumer representatives on the panel were left to play defense on every front, with concerns about privacy, free speech, creativity, and the fundamental shift in the Internet and technology if this comes to pass. With DRM on one end and filtering on the other, the seminar left the unmistakable impression that the public is in the middle and is about to get squeezed.