News from this weeks E-G8
May 28, 2011
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This week there was a gathering of technology experts in Paris at the request of President Sarkozy. It was named the E-G8 with the findings of the forum to be presented to the G8 summit later on in the week. Did anyone hear very much about it? It was pretty quiet on the news front. On the tech front, Leo Laporte from the Twit.TV network was due to attend but a family emergency prevented him from attending. Jeff Jarvis attended in his stead. Cory Doctorow was invited to attend but declined the invitation feeling that the conference was loaded against open-ness from the outset.
The main theme that surrounded the summit was that of the ‘neutral net’. America traditionally has quite a liberal and hands off approach generally to the web and tends to reject most forms of regulation. Over here in Europe there is a much higher tendency to lean towards regulation and France has already taken a lead in this by instigating the 3 strike rule; if you are found guilty of downloading illegal material three times your broadband connection will be terminated and the user black listed, although discussed widely, it hasn’t been adopted beyond that.
As access to the Internet is becoming almost a necessity and not just a luxury and the content on it reaching a ‘maturity’ governments are looking to regulate it’s content. Recent stories to illustrate concerns would be the whole saga surrounding Wikileaks and even most recently would be the stupidity surrounding the super-injunctions.
As someone who traditionally favours businesses and right holders it was commonly regarded by some tech gurus that this summit was loaded in their favour from the start. It was no surprise then that President Sarkozy opened the conference with a warning that the net could not be allowed to remain a lawless place and went on to say “The world you represent is not a parallel universe where legal and moral rules and more generally all the basic rules that govern society in democratic countries do not apply”.
One of the highlight discussions that took place was on the topic of intellectual property where John Barlow, head of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and former Grateful Dead lyricist faced off against the boss of Universal Music France. He dismissed the idea of his work being intellectual property. He said “I don’t regard my expression as a form of property. Property is something that can be taken from me”. After that it became a bit of a school yard argument where both sides think they are right and won’t back down from that. Essentially content creators are looking for new ways to get their work out to people (and hopefully make a bit of money on it) and big business looking to preserve their old models for making money and not wanting any change from that.
Not surprisingly, when the likes of Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook and Eric Schmidt of Google took to the stage their warnings were the opposite of Sarkosy and were counselling that regulation would inhibit innovation and that Governments, who had little understanding of the Internet and how it works should stay away from the role of regulators.