Tackling digital copyright theft

November 19, 2009

lavinia-Lavinia Carey is Chair of the Alliance Against IP Theft, and Director General of the British Video Association. The opinions expressed are her own. -

The proposals contained within the much anticipated Digital Economy Bill have prompted lively debate among politicians, industry and consumer groups. Unfortunately, some have characterised the debate as industry versus consumer, when in fact both industry and the consumer have an interest in reducing copyright theft.

The proposals will benefit millions of people, and significant consensus exists about the need to tackle the issue by first warning and ultimately taking action against those who distribute other people’s content online without permission.

Whilst some have criticised the Government’s proposals on temporary broadband account suspension this is one of a number of potential measures, implemented only after due process and a robust appeals process, which may be used as a last resort against those who have ignored multiple warnings and continue to persist in illegal file-sharing. Research also shows the important role the existence of such a deterrent has to play in changing people’s behaviour.

Equally, most parents would surely welcome a warning that alerted them to the fact that the activities of their children were exposing the whole family to security breaches. That is what happens when people file-share – the software they download to access illicit music or film files, for example, also provides access to other users to all the files on their computer, some of which may contain very personal and private information and it’s a great propagator of malware and viruses.

Many internet users find broadband speeds unsatisfactory, particularly during the heaviest use of bandwidth by file-sharers between the hours of 6pm and midnight, so consumers who use legitimate services will probably welcome the fall in illegal traffic, which significantly contributes towards congestion on the networks.

Those who rely on the creative economy for their livelihood, including musicians, directors, software developers, lighting and camera operators, make-up artists, costumiers, designers, producers, grips, writers and sound engineers to name just a few deserve to have their creativity protected. They are consumers too. If they are not properly rewarded for their work, our creative economy will suffer. This is not something our country can afford to risk. This is one of the fastest growing industries in the UK, 8 percent of GDP, and in many parts of the sector we justifiably lead the world.

We must not fall into the trap of accepting that an illegal and damaging practice has to continue just because it has become normalised among certain groups. Quite the reverse is true. It is the job of Government and Parliament to make sure that the public has access to and can enjoy the opportunities presented by a Digital Britain, that no section of our society is excluded from those opportunities, and that those who make it possible are properly rewarded for their innovation.

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