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Christine Payne: File-sharing is not a victimless crime

Posted by Eagle Eye
  • Thursday, 21 January 2010 at 02:22 pm

Too often, illegal filesharing is seen as a ‘victimless crime’, with major media companies able to afford to pick up the tab. The reality is very different: without the revenue from the distribution of creative content, there will be fewer films, songs and TV programmes able to be commissioned. Job losses will be felt right across the chain, from production to distribution, from technicians to manufacturers and from logistics companies to staff in high street shops.

Our members are genuinely concerned about the impact illegal filesharing is having on the future of the entertainment industry. They worry that, in a rapidly changing world, there are diminishing incentives to produce quality works, and that the incentives will disappear altogether if those who do put their time, energy, talents and capital into creating quality works find that they are unable to gain any financial benefit because the works are pirated and distributed without any return for the creator.

We believe internet service providers (ISPs) hold the key to creating the step change necessary to tackle illegal file-sharing. It is the ISPs who have the direct relationship with customers, and all the evidence suggests that where a system is put in place for dealing with offenders, rates of piracy will fall dramatically. For the vast majority, simply drawing attention to the illegality of their actions would be sufficient to correct behaviours, and this should be backed by further action in respect of those who do not change their behaviour.

Clearly, informing the public about the impact of piracy is a key part of getting people to see the bigger picture. But the rate at which jobs are being undermined by this issue is too urgent for ISPs not to play their role. Just as they need new television, film and music to fuel engagement with the internet, so they should live up to their responsibility to those who work in the production of the content.

It is for that very reason that my trade union and others have joined forces with the creative industries, under the banner of the Creative Coalition Campaign, to speak with one voice in support of obliging ISPs to take technical measures against persistent illegal P2P filesharers. The graduated response to repeat offenders, sharing the cost of enforcement and setting out responsibilities will be just as useful to the ISPs as the content providers.

The Digital Economy Bill is a start, but it needs to stay in good shape as it progresses because the scale and nature of digital theft is reaching epidemic proportions and shows no signs of abating. Currently, it is estimated that over six million people illegally file-share regularly, and in relation to illegal downloads of TV programmes, for example, the UK is the world leader, with up to 25% of all online TV piracy taking place in the UK. This is a statistic that should fill us with about as much pride as having the highest rate of obesity in Europe, which would quite rightly prompt Government intervention.

As the recession continues, both workers and employers are looking intensively for ways to reinforce sources of revenue in the economy and to save jobs. Clearly the climate is a challenging one across many sectors, but this is why chances to prevent unnecessary losses of jobs, such as the proposed measures in the Digital Economy Bill, should be seized with both hands by industry and labour.

Christine Payne is Chair of the Creative Coalition Campaign and General Secretary of Equity


Comments

zombie90 wrote:
Thursday, 21 January 2010 at 05:28 pm (UTC)
First let's correct some facts. File-sharing isn't a crime at all - victimless or otherwise. I think you mean copyright infringement is a crime, however that's not true either, because it's a civil matter. Lastly, copyright infringement has nothing to do with theft, which refers to the taking of physical goods, or piracy, which involves war-like acts committed by non-state actors (typically robbery or criminal violence committed at sea). Confusing these terms is unhelpful - please don't.

Now let's address your points:

On the worries of your organisation's members that people will suddenly stop paying for quality creative works, why do you not re-assure them by pointing out how well the fruits of their colleagues' labours continue to sell, despite copyright infringement and the recession? There are frequent reports of record takings at the cinema box-office and revenues from computer-game sales are through the roof. It's true that the music industry has lost ground to other forms of entertainment in recent years (chiefly DVDs and games consoles) however music sales are still increasing year-on-year.

You claim that ISPs rely on the content industries to attract business. Surely this is backwards? Do you imagine that people would no longer buy Internet access if they were unable to use it to listen to music or watch films? I don't think so. These days Big Media and artists alike rely on the provision of Internet access to their customers for advertising and distribution. Therefore why should ISPs share the cost of prosecuting copyright infringement when they don't stand to benefit? For that matter, why should artists support Big Media efforts to stamp out copyright infringement, since they don't stand to profit either? It's very rare for an artist to hold the copyright to their own work.

But - woe! If copyright infringement continues unchecked there will be job losses, you say, apparently unfazed by the fact that the content industry has been shrieking this for years without any evidence of it happening. In other spheres, when middle-men and bureaucrats are made redundant, it's referred to as "making efficiency savings." I hear the Government is keen on those - however unfortunate they are for the civil servants involved. Did I say civil servants? Sorry, I meant parasites on creativity. The fact is nobody owes these people a living. If Big Media can't or won't adapt to their changed environment then they will die - with or without Government protection.

Only the rights-holders - the media middle-men - stand to gain from the proposals in the Digital Economy Bill. Those gains will be at the expense of artists, consumers, ISPs, businesses, schools, libraries, society and our cultural heritage. That doesn't sound like a good trade-off to me.
A Created Problem
bbb_ii wrote:
Thursday, 21 January 2010 at 05:39 pm (UTC)
Pure Exageration to push the Elitist Agenda of Internet Control.

Over SIX MILLION regular file sharers?

This figure was questioned by the Radio 4 Programme 'More or Less'

A figure of 6.7m was gleaned from a 2008 survey of 1,176 net-connected households, 11.6% of which admitted to having used file-sharing software - in other words, only 136 people.

The 11.6% of respondents who admitted to file sharing was adjusted upwards to 16.3% "to reflect the assumption that fewer people admit to file sharing than actually do it."

This is pure nonsense that you are peddling here.

One more thing that you fail to address, is that you make the assumption that all these MILLIONS of file sharers would have 'bought' the DVD or whatever medium was, if they were otherwise unable to download it. Hence the exageration of the lost revenue.

The 'Digital Economy Bill' is another bit of back door legislation to allow censorship of the Internet.

Sleep well!
Re: A Created Problem
porkfright wrote:
Thursday, 21 January 2010 at 09:33 pm (UTC)
Well I can tell you from my experience of music that it is not performers who tend to make big money unless they are at the very top of their particular tree. As has been said-it is the rich middlepersons who stand to lose, and the wider agenda here is that of policing the internet so that over a period of time it is completely 'controlled.' Let's face it-the last thing the people behind the scenes want to make the world safe for is democracy.
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