Ed Vaizey asked on Linked-in What is the best way for an incoming government to address the issue of online piracy? My reply…

Hi Ed,

You ask a topical question with a value assumption built in. Is online unauthorised file sharing “piracy” or an “un-monetised” opportunity? There is no question that the economic impact of file-sharing is being felt by creators and rights owners alike, although how its impact may be disentangled from the effects of the recession are less easily discernible.

Suggesting that we all agree that technical measures are applied to a problem like this is a bit like saying that we all agree that breathing air is a good idea. We all agree we have a problem, but we don’t all agree that trying to threaten people with various degrees of punishment is necessarily going to act as much of a deterrent.

My personal belief is that legislating for technical measures on the internet is like asking a snail to act as a line judge at a football match. The speed of technological innovation and circumvention means that any preventative measures can at best be speed bumps.

There are also dangers to invoking technical measures. Consumer groups have highlighted the difficulties of accurately identifying offenders on the internet and the breaches of personal privacy that would be required to try to do so. Additionally, the teenage response to being pursued is to lie and to hide. Both of these options are now available in the form of new encrypted services which lead in a sinister line to “darknets” where far more sinister materials and characters are to be found. Creating legislation that might drive our young folk in that direction should be considered for its implications very carefully indeed.

So what of positive remedies? Very simply, threefold:

1) A wide ranging, creative education program that expects to achieve results over years not weeks to change the cultural expectations of a generation. This is a huge ambition worthy of a far-sighted government of any complexion. It is expensive and long term and is required by the entire creative community if it is to retrieve value from the current detritus.

2) A programme to encourage and enhance new paid-for services that will make p2p look shoddy, unreliable and dull. Ambition, aspiration and imagination are required here. Rights owners need to move beyond the restrictions that they have clung to in an effort to preserve their existing business models. We must be willing to embrace new models and unexpected ways of offering content. The Digital Britain Testbeds project is an exciting and potentially visionary means of exploring some of these ideas. Some more active form of compulsion might also be considered. Some have proposed compulsory blanket licensing of ISPs. Versions of these solutions need to be much more actively explored.

3. And longterm, we need a radical overhaul of our copyright legislation so that rights are made more accessible, more simply defined for the digital age. This does not mean that they can’t be equipped with the sophisticated metadata required to ensure all rights holders get paid, but let their’s be a right to remuneration not a right to make available. The internet has already enforced the latter – what we need to do is to make the finance flow with the usage – not against it.

Hope that helps – of course it’s a synopsis – plenty more to be worked through!

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2 responses to “Ed Vaizey asked on Linked-in What is the best way for an incoming government to address the issue of online piracy? My reply…

  1. There is a lot more to Ed than meets the eye. Here are a couple of “exclusive” interviews that have gone under the radar of the MSP.

    On art: http://www.artforums.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8648

    Videogames: http://www.bruceongames.com/2009/07/27/exclusive-interview-ed-vaizey-uk-shadow-minister-for-the-arts/

  2. Dear Jeremy,

    We have met once at the Unconference organised by MediaSauce (Mel Norman) and held at NESTA. I am wondering if you would be interested and available to facilitate a workshop during a two-day conference on teaching and advising on IP on 8/9 March 10 in Asia House, London (near Oxford Circus). I thought of you because of your strong views on IP education and new challenges to IP legislation. The workshop I would like you to lead on will discuss commercialisation of IP in the digital age, new business models in the creative industries and the value of branding (or can the music industry lead the way for other sectors when it comes to monetising content). the workshop will take place on 8th March 2010, from 3.45 – 4.45pm followed by a plenary discussion from 4.45 – 5.15pm. Have a look at the programme and other speakers here: http://www.own-it.org/events/ip-for-creative-enterprises-a-two-day-conference

    Best wishes
    Silvia Baumgart

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