While site blocking has long been employed as a nuclear (albeit often ineffective) option for preventing copyright infringement, the entertainment industry is now taking things a step further by blocking certain apps.
Guest post by Timothy Geigner of Techdirt
With site-blocking now fully en vogue in much of the world as the preferred draconian solution to copyright infringement, one point we've made over and over again is that even this extreme measure has no hope of fully satisfying the entertainment industries. Once thought something of a nuclear option, the full censorship of websites will now serve as a mere stepping stone to the censorship of all kinds of other platforms that might sometimes be used for piracy. It was always going to be this way, from the very moment that world governments creaked open this door.
And it appears it isn't taking long for the entertainment industries to want to take that next step, either. As the debate about Kodi addons rages, and as governments begin to clamp down on the platform at the request of the entertainment industry, several industry players at an IP forum event in Russia have started announcing plans to push for app-blocking as the next step.
Over in Russia, a country that will happily block hundreds or millions of IP addresses if it suits them, the topic of infringing apps was raised this week. It happened during the International Strategic Forum on Intellectual Property, a gathering of 500 experts from more than 30 countries. There were strong calls for yet more tools and measures to deal with films and music being made available via ‘pirate’ apps.
The forum heard that in response to widespread website blocking, people behind pirate sites have begun creating applications for mobile devices to achieve the same ends – the provision of illegal content. This, key players in the music industry say, means that the law needs to be further tightened to tackle the rising threat.
“Consumption of content is now going into the mobile sector and due to this we plan to prevent mass migration of ‘pirates’ to the mobile sector,” said Leonid Agronov, general director of the National Federation of the Music Industry.
Look, all of that is true. Innovation happens often at the margins when it comes to technology, after all, and the technology that powers piracy is no exception to this rule. At the same time, neither the entertainment industry nor the governments of the world have ever, even once, shown themselves to be good or fair arbiters of what tools are "pirate tools" and which are legitimate tools that sometimes are used for piracy. If given the power, both will overshoot the mark, with entertainment groups carpet-bombing their way to collateral damage just to be sure that pirates are obliterated, and governments all too often using this copyright censorship as cover to enact oppressive censorship on matters of pure politics.
In other words, it's not that the entertainment industry is wrong that there is some measure of a problem to be dealt with, it's just that their censorious solution creates way more problems than it solves.
Despite that, the music industry, in particular, is banging its war drum.
The same concerns were echoed by Alexander Blinov, CEO of Warner Music Russia. According to TASS, the powerful industry player said that while recent revenues had been positively affected by site-blocking, it’s now time to start taking more action against apps.
“I agree with all speakers that we can not stop at what has been achieved so far. The music industry has a fight against illegal content in mobile applications on the agenda,” Blinov said.
This is not an arms race that the content industry has shown it is capable of winning. But while they beat these war drums for evermore censorship, the unintended consequences are strewn like bodies all around them. From Blinov's home country of Russia, the government has been laughably inept at separating pirate site from non-pirate site to the tune of a ten-fold blocking of collateral damage sites, all while the government also uses those same copyright laws to shut down political speech and reporters it doesn't like.
And it is in this climate that content companies want to hand even more blocking powers to the authorities? First they came for the websites, then they came for the mobile applications? Whatever comes after that is not something to look forward to.