Friday, 22 October 2010

Rights, cyber crime and us!

In some ways it isn't surprising that cyber crime has risen up the government's and country's agenda in the revamp of expenditure in the recent security strategy review in the UK. For those working in this area we've known and understood the possibilities. And just as we've had to endure spam waves, identity thefts, and piracy, the possibility of electronic attack on nuclear power stations, electricity supplies and electronic espionage is not, unfortunately, the stuff that dreams are made of.

Just as some are hell bent on exploiting the fringes of this amazing communication revolution, others are still working to regulate aspects of it to tidy up loopholes such as the rights issues. There are still the administrative necessities of clearing literary rights in text on web pages, rights in the computer code behind the running of the pages, electronic database rights if so warranted, artistic rights in the sound and visuals, and so on.

You'd have thought that by now many of the traditional rights issues would have been addressed for the electronic age but there are still clashes of expectations and actuality in the use of the Internet creating a large gap when general market demand is held up by legalities they don't understand.

Take for example a request we had recently (not the first from ex-pats, I add) where there was a genuine disappointment about not being able to access the BBC iPlayer from abroad. The ex-pats would have paid for access and downloads of the programme they wanted if they could, but they were not given a choice as access is denied outside the UK.

Of course for those of us in the industry it was easy to explain why that is the case, but the reaction from the general public was akin to taking sweets off kids. Now, these were adults who could make sense of the legalities once we explained - the need for electronic rights clearances from all the actors/producers etc. with or without residual payments, deals done country-wide for releasing programmes only via the established land TV network at their time and scheduling convenience, and the restriction on BBC releases to other countries because of the implications of only UK taxpayers paying for the programmes in the first place. Those are some of the issues affecting release of BBC material, but although the ex-pats understood the words, they were genuinely gutted by the denial of their consumer demands.

In the end, I suppose what I'm getting at is the span of legal and illegal activities that the electronic revolution has given us to consider in this new world. It's an ethical question as to where we stand in this mêlée – where do you stand?

P.S. Yes, we do know how to work round some of these issues so don't send us your answers as many are still not legal , but you may not have fully appreciated it!