Business piracy Regs

#DEAPPG meeting to discuss IP review & what have the Spanish been doing now!

In November the Prime Minister David Cameron announced an independent review of how the Intellectual Property framework supports growth and innovation. Chaired by Professor Ian Hargreaves the review will report in April 2011 with evidence due by March 4th. The Hargreaves review aims to identify barriers to growth within the regulatory framework protecting IP in the UK.

With this review in mind the Digital Economy All Party Political Group (DEAPPG) met at the House of Commons last night for a panel debate chaired by Lord Lucas. The panel was

  • Martin Weatherall MP (background in the Rights Holders industry)
  • Jeff Lynne (Coalition for the Digital Economy)
  • Saskia Walzel (Consumer Focus and the evening’s sponsor)
  • Simon Indelicate (recording artist)

A few points stuck in the mind.

Firstly (and this was the low hanging fruit) it was accepted by all concerned that the law concerning format shifting needs changing. This is where someone buys a CD and copies the content onto another medium such as an MP3 player or PC hard drive. This practice is currently unlawful – in theory you are supposed to buy a separate version of a song (say) targeted at the different media. Even copyright hardliners the BPI has apparently relaxed its stance on this.

There was wide, though not universal, support for the notion that provided the originating owner was suitably rewarded people should be able to reuse intellectual property repurposed for their own objectives. This might mean use of someone’s work but presented differently, or in a different context, provided value was added.

Mike Weatherall, representing RightsHolders, disagreed with this and was firm in his contention that copyright owners should be able to decide who could use their material. This extended to the principle of fair use (whereby non commercial/non Rights Holders business affecting reuse of material could be considered ok – already legal in the USA)

I doubt that there is a single person who believes that we should not be rewarding copyright owners for their creativity. However it all boils down to the fact that the digital technological revolution has changed the world forever.

We have moved on and whatever output Hargreaves produces should reflect this. Like it or not business models for Rights Holders will have to change. MW fully accepted this but was careful to say that we should not be selling short the creators of Intellectual Property.

The problem is that nobody has come up with an answer.

There are some truisms to consider. In the run up to the passing of the Digital Economy Act the Rights Holders forced the government into action by maintaining that their industry was dying. This is patently not the case – revenues are growing.

The royalty collection mechanisms set up by the Rights Holders themselves are not serving their own people well. We hear that the vast majority of musicians earn less than £15,000 a year. Well many of them are not receiving royalties for public performance of their recorded work because the system is biased towards the big names.

In the meantime ISPs as stakeholders have been making their submissions to Hargreaves. We are specifically calling for

  • reform and simplification of the licensing system (drop me a line if you want some examples of the issues – too many for this post)
  • use of existing laws to enforce copyright – we don’t need new ones
  • the cost of enforcing rights should be borne by the beneficiaries and not intermediaries, such as ISPs (witness the Digital Economy Act nightmare!)

Just to finish on a lighter note it was commented that in Spain the movie industry is claiming that the “unlawful” viewing of pirate copies of movies has reached 85% penetration of the population. This has seemingly not affected numbers attending cinemas and has only had a slight effect on DVD sales.

Some movie makers have apparently suggested that because of the (alleged) high levels of piracy they might pull out of the Spanish market completely “leaving Spain with the prospect of becoming a cultural wasteland” – a bit rich coming from the Americans 🙂

Whatever happens there is clearly a need for change. Let us hope that Professor Hargreaves is a catalyst for good change.

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

3 replies on “#DEAPPG meeting to discuss IP review & what have the Spanish been doing now!”

Spanish thing was very amusing. But its Simon Indelicate’s story about the Rolling Stones suing over another artist for repurposing some words from their 1960s song”Ruby Tuesday”. As you know we usually hold our panel events on a Tuesday… if I refer to our events as ruby Tuesdays from now on. Do you think I’ll get sued?

The Ruby Tuesday story got left on the cutting room floor – a brutal editing policy driven by the pressures of time and lack of space (uh? 🙂 ).

The beauty of modern technology though is that the story is never lost of wasted and can resurface anywhere the connectivity allows.

Ruby Tuesdays seems an entirely appropriate name for the DEAPPG events though I might suggest that one of these days we go for a curry afterwards.

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