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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I think that the relevent point made by the article was the bit when it mentioned justifiable reward for their ceative efforts, the common man does not think that the rewards they wish to appoint to themselves for their efforts are as great as they wish to apportion to themselves, hence the piracy.

Posted by c edwards | Report as abusive

While it is commendable to suggest we should correctly recompense the many hard working individuals in the media industries which have been impacted by the file sharing pheomenon, it is erroneous to assume that the movement to tackle this with countermeasures has been implemented for their benefit.At the end of the day, the pressure on the Government is being put forward by the corporations who have seen significant dents in their profits simply because they were too greedy in the first instance to be willing to ride the wave of file sharing in the first place.The whole crux of this issue lies with the principal concern these corporations have. This is not a concern for their staff or their artists’ general wellbeing. This is ultimately a concern over their profits. The Governments, who ultimately benefit from the taxation of the end products, are simply acting to secure their own revenues as well. They’ll stand behind the shield of more noble reasons, but never acknowledge any reasonable counterarguments from the other side of the fence.Money does make the world go round, unfortunately. But it is possible that there has been some net benefit to global society as a whole on account of the greater proliferation and dissemination of great works of art, across several media platforms.Regardless of right or wrong, legal or illegal, this file sharing business has been the catalyst for a great wave of change throughout the entire world. Which, as an evolving and tech integrated species, can only be a good thing for us in the long run.

Posted by Neil Dax | Report as abusive

Regarding the musical aspect, musicians at all levels should concentrate on live gigs, as they can not be copied and are unique, instead of helping to fund corporate greed, and marketing machines, a healthy live music scene is the best way forward.Lost full price music revenues from download files are a nonsence, it has been proved that file downloaders spend more on retail product than most.

Posted by Jim Waugh | Report as abusive

Why is the music industry so flippant about file-sharing? The youth always swap tunes on what ever technology they can find! As a writer, I have to give more content away to make a sale – that is the new ‘normal’. In the digital age piracy is part of the problem but attention span and content saturation is the real dilemna: peole want more content for free and spend less time valueing it yet it doesn’t make them any wiser – most of the time they’re following the herd and downloading what everyone else is downloading – the same ‘entertainment’. You know what, tighten the file-sharing rules just to see what innovation and cultural change arises afterwards.

Posted by Simon Drake | Report as abusive

Good grief what next. Humans claiming to invent things. Indeed we have ie. patents, royalties, copyright, licenses, slavery systems, propoganda, Human language, OH yes humans have created many things. Did i mention that we have created and invented the BEST TUNES

Posted by Eden and Apple | Report as abusive

I have this wonderful vision: a Western Society in which creative artists – creative people, in general, really – get paid enough to make a living, more or less, by lots of people happy to negotiate with them freely and in good faith, using the latest technology and of course an enlightened outlook. This would be IP free capitalism (not free IP, free capitalism) at its finest…But does the aegis of this article help move things in such direction? No. As a matter of fact, it does the opposite. This is a test of bureaucratic stupidity’s ability to make the people cower and buckle, even those with good reason to transfer files at ferocious rates in perfectly good faith under fair use, more often than not having paid for the privilege, but too busy to down tools long enough to educate some prying imbeciles in uniform why this is the case.For starters, policy like this – this one, in fact – presumes guilt where little or none can be effectively proven. There is no equitable precedent in modern history for what is being proposed here.Then, most sickeningly of all, the article appears to claim “the children” as its own, even the ones it did not have by natural means. Right there, you lost the respect of anyone with two digital neurons to rub together.Nothing in this article makes better citizens of, nor helps the children of today, nor those of tomorrow. It’s more like digital birth control. “Have a kid, land in jail… there went your broadband – oops, too bad”.The argument that favors pulling people’s broadband connection first, then maybe asking questions later (how else could it be? you have no clue where digital files come from unless you titrate the entire network with “dirty” data and track those like a massive ongoing sting operation run by informants) is akin to the Digital Death Penalty for (allegedly) online shoplifting. By the time citizens prove their innocence, they’re already dead meat.Will it have done on whit of good for creative people, oh, and “the children” it purports to protect?Don’t kid yourself. This whole thing is Government in bed committing acts of gross indecency with the worst elements of behemoth feudal indentureship better known as Corporate Entertainment – not even doing it in a loving, far less digitally enlightened, way.No, doing it for money, like a you-know-what.First, Government, you will have the entire nation, including “the children” in fear of online anything they’re not sure what-it-is. Next, they will all hate you. Then, may the police violence, or force as we’re obliged to call it, be with you.It is policy like this that will set things, if not all the way back to the Dark Ages, then at least 60-odd years back into the realm of Sippenhaft. Policy even more weird, if that’s possible, than the War On Drugs; policy made by idiots working on behalf of feudal IP tyrants, is what this smacks of.I dare you to explain the upside to this, or that there could even be one. No, sorry, too late, you already had your chance. No more broadband for you.

Posted by The Bell | Report as abusive

Nice article, install p2p software and the nasty virus bogeyman will get you! All your docs will be freely accessible! ! Have you actually used peer to peer? Its just you seem a bit out of touch with reality.Ultimately we can all go out and buy services that encrypt all our traffic out of the UK for around £10 a month, and that defeats the government’s snooping technology, and yours. You are in an arms race with very resourceful smart people, and you’ve been loosing it since the sony-betamax days.The real thing missing from the article is where you explain why a decade after mass piracy took off, there isnt a single service where I can buy all my content legitimately? (EG tv episodes on day of broadcast, and films on release)Piracy gives people good quality copies of media (tv, film, music, books, games, apps, etc) delivered quickly and free of DRM. If you dont offer a service which can do the same, then how exactly do you expect everyone to ‘go legit’?The issue really comes down to trust, the creative horde cried wolf over photocopiers, audio tape, cd recorders, dvd recorders, each of these were meant to destroy your industry, and didnt. Why should anyone believe you over peer to peer?

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive