Clearing the minefield that is online copyright law lies in the hands of web programmers, according to the inventor of www, Tim Berners-Lee.
He was speaking at the www2012 conference in Lyon, France, where he used his keynote speech on Wednesday to reiterate his defence of internet openness and warn of the dangers threatening it.
A panel that also included European Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes discussed, among other issues, the controversy of proposed anti-piracy laws such as ACTA.
After the debate, one conference participant- a programmer and producer of music- asked how protecting intellectual property online could be reconciled with the idea of an internet that is open to all.
Berners-Lee advised him to be creative and use his computing skills to come up with a solution that would satisfy creators and consumers alike, telling him:
“Imagine what you want the world to look like, then go geek! Go and do it!”
Many governments, backed by industry lobbyists, are trying to get bills passed that would prevent music, film and other intellectual property being consumed for free over the internet. Opponents of these bills claim they threaten basic freedoms such as privacy, expression and access to information.
The US administration saw its SOPA and PIPA shot down in a hail of popular protest. A new replacement bill, CISPA, has also drawn criticism from consumer groups.
The once smooth passage of a similar signed but, as yet, non-ratified multinational treaty, ACTA, has been slowed by growing accusations of violations of civil liberties.
FRANCE’S HADOPI ‘RIDICULOUSLYOUT OF WHACK’
Under the provisions of France’s own version, HADOPI, repeat offenders of online copyright infringement could have their internet connections cut off. Berners-Lee described HADOPI as “ridiculously out of whack” with the practical requirements of tomorrow’s internet. Punishing a teenager who illegally copies intellectual property by cutting off the internet connection to his/her whole household would be “weird,” he added.
There is undoubtedly growing public mistrust of government efforts to tackle what most people agree is a genuine problem for intellectual proprietors. For Berners-Lee and many others in the www community the best chances of a compromise may lie with programmers coming up with innovative business models rather than law-makers drafting new legislation.
Among those who agree is Neelie Kroes, the EU’s head of all things digital. She opened her keynote speech in Lyon on Thursday with the words: “The best thing about the internet is that it is open,” prompting immediate and warm from the audience, led by Berners-Lee.
We need to get rid of “digital handcuffs,” she added, brandishing a pair of real handcuffs to force home her point.
Members of the www community will keep a close eye on what Kroes, and the rest of Europe’s decision-makers, seek to put in place. In the meantime, they have been urged to dream up the solutions themselves.