Digital Economy Bill – unprecedented lobbying operation

The entertainment industry continues an unprecedented and relentless lobby around the Digital Economy Bill.  The campaigns around this Bill really are a story of David and Goliath.  If you counted the number of people who are working full time to bounce this Bill through the Commons on behalf of big publishing interests I bet it would run into three figures. Those that want to protect the Internet connections of the nation’s youth? Probably one or two.

Being lobbied by people you revere, respect and admire is a tricky thing. I’ve just openend this letter from some big characters in my life. It shows how co-ordinated and determined the entertainment industry is:

Dear Mr Watson
The Digital Economy Bill
Britain is admired for its creativity and its sense of fair play. British musicians, singers, actors, writers and directors are known and loved around the world and create some of our greatest assets. Together they contribute more that 7% to the UK economy.
The Digital Economy Bill brings both of these together. It will ensure that British creators, entertainment companies and the 1.8 millioon people who work in and around the cultural sector are respected and rewarded in the future as they have been in the past., and that they are fairly paid when they put their work online.
Digital entertainment services are really beginning to take off: fans have never had so much choice as to how they enjoy their music, books, TV and films online. But for these new business models to develop, it is critical that more is done to prevent the illegal services providing easy access to free content.
We urge Parliament to pass this bill as a matter of urgency in order to secure the future of its creative talent and industries.
Sir Terry Pratchett OBE author
Simon Cowell
Paul Greengrass President Directors UK
Stephen Garrett Executive Chairman Kudos
Tim Bevan Co Chairman, Working Title Films

30 thoughts on “Digital Economy Bill – unprecedented lobbying operation”

  1. Surprised to see Terry Pratchett in there, don’t know why but I am. I suppose he has to look to protect his income like anyone else though.

  2. Would you, or another MP care to ask any of those people how they believe that the “orphaned works” provisions in the Bill “secure the future of [Britain’s] creative talent and industries” – or why they believe that it’s necessary that the running of an internet domain name server becomes something that government can (and should) interfere with. That’s before we’ve even considered the “three strikes”, “innocent until proven guilty”, and the idea of the Statutory Instruments (rather than, say, Parliamentary process) providing most of the “detail” and “implementation”.

  3. Rather simplistic letter, deserves a simplistic comment…

    Dear Mr Watson,

    Mickey needs your help, he will run out of copyright soon so please extend it to 300 years, no make that 500 years. Walt’s great-great-great-great grandson might actually have to work for a living.


    Starving illustrator

    Seriously, copyright and patent law is fundamentally broken, if you cure cancer or invent fusion power tomorrow you will have less rights than if I write a 3 line ditty on the back of an envelope. The traditional publishing industries are tired and outdated, their business models are broken and all they have left is to push for more laws to try and prop them up.

    The danger isn’t copying music/films/etc, it never has been (see previous scare stories…”home taping is killing music” etc), the problem for them is that anyone can publish from their bedroom across the whole world, this fact has them scared witless.

  4. Surely they must see the irony in their letter.

    “But for these new business models to develop, it is critical that more is done to prevent the illegal services providing easy access to free content.”

    It is legislation like this which has made the illegal services get large foothold and are actually able to release TV shows online faster than companies with millions of £££ behind them.

    Surely some common sense should prevail from their war against the cassette pirates?

  5. I think if you want to get content creators on side you should be coming up with responses to the reasons that they are supporting the bill. Namely they are afraid that piracy is growing and becoming normalized, especially among the young.

    If you just start responding to those concerns with talk about privacy principles and the right to internet access you are not having the same conversation.

    These are people who are concerned that they, and their possibly much less well off, but no less talented friends will be left without a source of dependable income in twenty to thirty years. Responding to that with ‘but what if someone gets wrongfully connected after multiple warning letters’ and ‘there won’t be enough oversight on prevention measures’ doesn’t seem likely to convince.

    You have to start adressing the concerns of the people you want to win over or just give up on getting their support.

  6. It’s going to be interesting to see if parliament are willing to listen to the voices of millions of file sharing voters, or the voices of a very few high profile lobbyists. To be honest, I’m surprised that we’re not seeing more MPs cynically jumping ship and chasing votes. Perhaps this letter will help, after all, courting the anti-Simon Cowell sentiment that took Rage Against the Machine to the top of the charts at Christmas now seems to be an excellent chance to tap into a perhaps shallow but undeniably successful massive grass roots cultural movement of sorts.

    Anyway, I think that the interesting thing about this particular letter (apart from the fact that only 5 people signed it), is the huge gap in the logic presented. The letter can be boiled down to ‘We want fair play, therefore we want you to sign a bill that throws out the right to a fair trial and the assumption of innocence until found guilty.’

    So, I have some questions for supporters of the bill:
    1) Should file sharing be stopped?
    2) Can file sharing be stopped?
    3) Would the Digital Economy Bill stop file sharing?

    I think even the most well paid lobbyist would have a hard time convincing an objective observer that the answer to two and three is yes. While I realise that I’m out on a political limb and ahead of my time for saying no to the first question, unless you can answer yes to all 3 questions then the bill shouldn’t be passed.

    Here’s the really big unanswered question that I’d like to ask Lord Mandelson:

    The government spent over £1bn last year on providing the public with free access to copyrighted works, through the public library service. Given that the government obviously thinks it’s getting value for money from the library service, it follows that the government sees a ‘cultural value’ of over £1bn to society in providing this access. Using the same mathematics, what does the government estimate the cultural value currently provided to society of free access to copyrighted works by file sharing to be, and how much greater would this value be if file sharing was legalised?

    It’s only when we the answer to this big question that we can realistically weigh up the pros and cons of file sharing and answer my first question based on anything other than listening to lobbying from just one side of the argument. I think that when we do have those answers, and add them to the much smaller estimates of losses and gains provided by ISPs and content holding middlemen so far in this debate, the case for legalisation becomes clear. Add the benefit to society of not criminalising a generation, the benefit to society of politicians proving they can listen to the youth of today, and the benefit to society of getting rid of many of the content holding middlemen that this bill is designed to placate, then I believe the case for legalisation becomes overwhelmingly strong.

  7. Hello, I am a creative professional (specifically, I make computer games), so I’m exactly the sort of person who you might expect to be in favour of this bill… but I’m not. At least, not for the bits of it I’ve seen.

    Most of the people who download my games do not pay for them. While I naturally wish they would, my business model never assumed they would, and I am not concerned that they don’t all pay. Being successful in my sector requires that I make products that people want to pay for – there is no need for me to have additional legal powers to persecute those who pick my digital locks.

  8. Surprised and a little dismayed to see Terry Pratchett on there. Been a reader and fan of his for twenty years, expected better of him…

  9. That’s exactly what this whole Bill – a huge lobbying operation (across the West & Asia & Australasia), to protect the traditional Media Giants from the new world of internet freedom.

    What these giants know as well as anyone else is, new models are starting to emerge, and the danger for them, is that they will no longer be the big guys.

    So to make sure they are, they need to protect their own interests in law.

    They have failed spectacularly to embrace the Digital World, the new world, of media. As such, they deserve nothing but to be left to die a slow, painful death.

    And let everyone else get on with constructing the future. It is a mistake to prop up these monoliths, whose interest is in the past.

    In the end it will only be worse for the Digital Economy, because true creativity and new models will be stifled, snuffed out, not enough room for them.

    We’re breaking up the banks, why aren’t we letting nature take it’s course and letting it break up these guys?

    Nature abhors a vacuum – what’s the problem?

    This episode only demonstrates to us how corrupt our politics truly is.

  10. I’d have more sympathy for the music industry’s current position if they’d actually tried to introduce a legal P2P service and it had failed. A poll by UKMusic shows that 85% of P2P downloaders aged 14-24 would be interested in paying for an unlimited “all you can eat” P2P download service, so the demand is clearly there. Where is it? In my opinion, a service like that would be the best way of reducing illegal filesharing and would have the added benefit of not alienating the music industry’s core audience. Surely the music industry should attempt something like this before implementing such oppressive legislation?

  11. In a world where everything is free and instant, why make anything? All media is going to go through the decline that music has over the past 5 years if something isn’t done and I can’t see the public being happy with that either.

    Also, we’re trying to recover from a recession. It seems fiscally irresponsible not to try to protect our countries media assets, when other countries are – we’re just losing revenue to our smarter neighbours.

  12. The problem with an unlimited “all you can eat” P2P service is that it would require the legally enforced cooperation of every copyright holder in the world, as well as a new legal right of access to works that have never been commercially released. Without those two changes, it would be missing content that people want, and it wouldn’t be “all you can eat” at all. With those two changes you’d have to have somebody arbitrating on pricing and dealing with messy disputes over ownership of collaborative and orphan works, which wouldn’t be cheap, or popular.

    I believe that legalisation of non-commercial copying is the only workable solution. If we had that, then artists could quite reasonably ask for donation buttons and shopping links to be put on P2P sites for their benefit, and I’m sure the file sharing community would be happy to oblige.

  13. All very well, Tom. However, how about the massive groundswell of opinion totally outgraged about the orphan works section of the Bill? This is where the hot conversation is. The consensus is that the proposals are potentially disasterous for photographers and will actually stifle and penalise creativity. I urge you to read up on this and act accrodingly. See for why we’re all so p1ssed off. Thanks.

  14. DaveT, please assume in future that readers here are in fact quite well-informed already about the issue and the talking points raised by supporters of ever-increasing forms of digital rights management.

    Money was invented, I’m reasonably sure, after the first creative works, not before. That answers the ‘why create anything?’ bit although for a more satisfactory answer you’re asking us to wander into philosophy. If some people only make things for money, why would anyone want to buy what they make? It cuts both ways. In games, the retail sector is declining for the PC market as more purchases are made online and on download services like Steam and D2D; but I’m still a sucker for special edition boxsets. The suits paying for all the lobbying shouldn’t underestimate sentiment until they actually experience it.

    People can argue that music has declined(not sure as you didn’t provide a source reference) because of piracy, but isn’t it just as valid to say any decline is probably because consumers have woken up to the price scam? Once record companies justified the ridiculous prices of music at retail on the basis of costs like shipping, packaging, retail shelf rental and even advertising. The internet has made all those massively cheaper and yet people are still expected to pay through the nose for material infected with DRM software that gives it a very limited lifespan should the format it’s on expire(again, as it does every ten or so years where we basically have to purchase things we already own all over again).

    The last point you have to make is the most contrived and outrageous of the industry propaganda; but also the most complex issue and as such it’s the one most used, because it works in bamboozling people. We do not know how much, if any money the industry loses to unauthorised copying and distribution; home taping didn’t kill music, nor did it kill television and film when VHS recorders were in every home. There’s a good chance that these may even have benefited the media industries because those that recorded or used recordings without ever buying genuine copies were unlikely to ever have bought them anyway, the only difference to piracy controls on such people is that they are discouraged from pirating. Doesn’t mean they are more likely to buy the real thing.

    That assumes controls like digital rights management or authoritarian laws even work, which current evidence says they don’t. They only harm legitimate users and except in rare circumstances, only ever have.

  15. Non-commercial file sharing should be legalised. Then perhaps the law would reflect the reality of our culture. This bill is draconian and anachronistic in its approach and does nothing to promote a digital revolution; it might as well be named “The digital anti-file sharing bill – written by big media aka the copyright industry.”, for that is its real agenda. To think otherwise is naive.

    The government is so out of touch with society and its values that it’s quite frightening. I genuinely fear we are entering into an orwellian state where government controls every facet of our lives, where dissent is forbidden, censorship is commonplace, and libertates hominum is fantasy long forgotten.

  16. Whatever view you take about the rights and wrongs of the Government’s proposals about how to deal with unlawful filesharing, the UK’s children’s organizations have been very disappointed about the almost complete absence of a debate about the role this type of software now plays in the distribution of indecent images of children (sometimes referred to as child pornography but more appropriately referred to now as “child abuse images”).

    As the UK’s mainstream internet industry has been increasingly successful in driving child abuse images off the world wide web so we have seen them shifting to filesharing environments. This makes it much more difficult to police because there are, as yet, no obvious technological fixes which will work across these networks. Each network appears to have its own unique characteristics, meaning that to get at the wrongdoers you simply have to sit police officers down in front of screens and get them to track each individual, one by one. That is a very resource intensive process and, judging by what we know about the scale of the trade in child abuse images over filesharing networks we despair that any major assault on the problem will ever happen. Piecmeal one off police actions to grab a headline, yes and very welcome too. But we need to stop the trade altogether. That requires sustained and persistent action.

    In that light, should the movie and music industries get the benefits which they reckon will arise from the Government’s measures, perhaps they would be sufficiently imaginative and generous enough to recognise that there is more to the iniquities of filesharing software than their profits.

    Could they step forward, even now, and offer to fund a sustained series of operations, led by CEOP, to get these vile criminals off the filesharing networks? It’s mainly a question of money.

    There are other child protection worries about filesharing software, but dealing with this aspect would be a very good start.

    John Carr
    Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety

  17. Mr Carr, I’ve seen frequent comparisons of piracy and child pornography(I won’t use your politically correct label; we all know it’s child abuse) in the debate and I’ve heard politicians have actually been doing it in what little debates there have been in parliament. Did you miss this? Do you have any objection to the comparison and do you think the two are even comparable? Will you voice any objection?

    The proposals in the bill infringe any number of rights both enshrined and un-codified, hence the need to make emotive appeals between piracy, private distribution networks and child abuse. I take it from your post that you do not object to this in fact. You don’t explicitly say what you think the solution is to the sharing of child porn, but your suggestion of police actively hunting down individual perpetrators as a result of ‘no obvious technological fixes’ implies certain things.

    First, it avoids the big issue: what you suggest the police would have to do, is almost certainly illegal without a warrant. They would be doing the digital equivalent of opening someone’s mail or tapping their phone. A technological fix would not make this any more legal.

    Second, you must have an extremely low opinion of the communities that gather round these networks. Perhaps you have heard the hysterical claims about pirates being equivalent to molesters and thing there’s no way they would shop a paedophile in their midst. They frequently do, but this is an area of society that journalists don’t go to and aren’t welcome, so you won’t hear about it.

    Oh, and they didn’t do it for money.

  18. “Those that want to protect the Internet connections of the nation’s youth? Probably one or two.”

    google , the telecoms industry & isp’s are far larger and spend a lot more cash on lobbying than the music industry.

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