Two stories, relating to Internet regulation, caught my eye this week, among the avalanche of articles that I routinely scan.
One related to the rejection, by French politicians, of a law that aimed to slash Internet access from people who are caught three times illegally downloading music. Under the planned three strikes and you are out concept, supported by both the film and music industries, a new French state agency would first send illegal file-sharers a warning e-mail, then a letter, and finally cut off their connection for a year if they were caught a third time.
Consumer groups warned that hackers could (and often do) hijack peoples identities, and hence any such law could be punishing innocent people.
This brought to my mind the childrens legend about the little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in a leaking dyke and saved his village from flooding. Unfortunately, I think the Internet flood has already swept through the world and theres no stopping it with legislation like this.
The report said the law was backed by French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his government had not given up. They were considering re-submitting the law again this year.
I believe it would be better for the film and music industries to be focusing this energy on adapting to the new work of media sharing, as some have already done by offering music downloads at a price per track. Government regulation always seems like using a sledge hammer to crack a nut.
Then there was the story from South Korea, where Google reportedly disabled user uploads and comments on the Korean version of its YouTube video portal.
This was because of a new Korean law that requires people to use their real names when they upload videos. According to the news report, Google took the action because they did not want to build a whole new verification system.
The Korean law is an effort to stamp out Internet bullying, after a much publicised case of the suicide of a popular actress in October after a series of online rumours alleged she pressured a fellow actor to repay a loan before he too killed himself.
I have some sympathy with this new law, because it is all too easy today for anyone to upload material, without taking responsibility for it.
All too often people who post material anonymously, or with a fictitious identity, have some ulterior motive in mind and dont have the courage of their convictions to stand up and say who they are.
Journalists take going on the record pretty seriously, and a similar standard should apply to people who want to tout their views, or creative endeavors, to the world.
Ross O. Storey, currently the Managing Editor of Fairfax Business Media Asia, is responsible for the editorial content and production of MIS Asia, CIO Asia, Computerworld Singapore and Computerworld Malaysia magazines.
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