How the Law is Destroying the Internet

Laws and treaties are killing the Internet

When the Internet first came into the mainstream the most amazing thing about it was how global it was. I could, using my desktop computer in Reykjavik, Iceland, view web pages coming from a server in Brisbane, Australia. I could get the home page of a restaurant in San Francisco to see the menu. I could read the local news paper in Eugene, Oregon. With Amazon, I could order books and with Classic FM, I could listen to classical music. The Internet was global and made the world a single united place. Now we are seeing more and more indications that the Internet is getting local. Laws are slowly destroying the global Internet.

As I mentioned in a previous post (see The State of the Internet) the law is changing the Internet for the worse. Let’s take few examples. I subscribe to Audible, a site with audio-books. Usually when I find an interesting book to buy, it ends in a disappointment. As soon as I sign in, the book is nowhere to be found. The reason is that Audible cannot sell the book in my region so it does not come up in a search. This restriction makes Audible much less interesting and practically useless to me and my credits just pile up.

UK based Classic FM stopped working one day and displayed this message:

“Unfortunately, due to music-licensing laws, we aren’t permitted to allow non-UK users to listen to our stations online.”

Hulu has a similar message:

“Hulu is committed to making its content available worldwide. To do so, we must work through a number of legal and business issues, including obtaining international streaming rights.”

Music site Pandora has this:

“We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S.”

There are many more examples.

What makes the Internet so special and a wonder-the-of-world is slowly being killed by old and outdated laws that don’t keep up with the way people use technology. International agreements take even more time to adjust. It is not that people outside US or UK or wherever the content is located, don’t want to pay their share to the authors of the content. If I buy a book on Audible, it is not like my money would be any different than a person in the US. The problem is that someone owns the rights to distribute the content in Europe or even in Iceland. The site mentioned above do not want to violate that right and be subject to litigation.

This shows how the laws are outdated. Now that we have technology which allows a music site like Classic FM and TV station like Hulu to have international customers and expand their revenue base, limitations due to physical distribution prohibits this. With the Internet the distribution is not a issue as distribution itself has no value, yet the laws protect those that have rights to distribute. The real problem however is that there might not even be any will to change this. The law is destroying the Internet – it should be the other way around.