Posts Tagged ‘Copyright’

Ben Bradshaw’s Number10 “FACT”s

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Two weeks ago, Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw took part in a webchat on

Put simply, it was a farce. The questions were so soft you could use them to swaddle babies. The one strong, serious question posed, got a response filled with unproven claims and appeals to emotion. Not a single hard fact.

David Roberts:
If I wanted to share my record, film collection with a group of like minded people for a non profit motive. What is the problem ? So now you have to regulate what people can and can not let others share because Mandelson has been on holiday with some Media Execs. Please set your time machine for the 21st Century as you obviously in the wrong century.

Ben replies:
David, maybe if you’d written or produced the song or made the film and were unable to create any value as a result of your efforts you might feel differently about it. British musicians lost £180million last year because of illegal file sharing. You are right that the industries need to find new and novel ways of charging for on-line content, but we can’t go on doing nothing to defend our creative individuals and businesses that make such an important contribution to our culture and economy.

Ben makes several errors here. First, there’s no proof, or even basic evidence that British musicians lost £180, let alone £180million. The figure comes from the IFPI’s 2009 Digital Music report. You know the IFPI, that wonderfully unbiased source of data on the music industry, that wouldn’t stoop to ENRON-esque accounting procedures to make it’s member companies look even better. The one claiming losses and poverty despite sales being UP (the same claims they made 20 years earlier about home taping, that strangely didn’t come true.

If I open a business, and make a forecast of sales of say £10,000 for the first year, and instead make only £5,000, have I lost £5,000? Has it been stolen? No, I made an incorrect prediction, which didn’t match with reality. That is the basis of these loss figures – it’s derived by subtracting what they actually made, from what they think they should make.

Secondly, that they ‘make such an important contribution to our culture and economy.’. The big 4 music companies comprise roughly 70-80% of the market (depending on where you get your stats). Only one of those 4 is British, the smallest, EMI. Nielson has their 2005 share at 9.55%, while the IFPI gives it at 13.4%. Even assuming all the independent labels were UK based (18.13% Nielson, 28.4% IFPI) thats only 26.7% (nielson) or 41.8% (IFPI) of the economy these companies have enriched the UK with, staying in the UK. Economy is like a wheel – It may only have a limited circumference (just as there’s a limited amount of money) but the more it goes around, the further it goes. Taking money out of the economy, sending it to foreign countries, doesn’t really help. Also, is culture contributed to, when it’s under such draconian, long term restrictions? Maybe the esteemed culture secretary should ask Edwyn Collins his opinion.

This leads on to the third point. Usually artists CAN’T ‘create any value’, because they have to sign those over to the middleman companies. That was the ‘traditional’ way. Even now, most bricks+mortar stores won’t deal with anyone not with a label, with any creator that’s attempting to create any value themselves.

Perhaps Mr Bradshaw would do better at his job, if he actually sought out the facts, rather than relying on industry lobbyists to provide him with FACTs. When the various industry groups can’t even get close on figures for the same thing, some serious doubts should be raised about the quality of ALL of their data.

Clueless MP in Charge of Filesharing Crackdown

October 1, 2009 1 comment

The MP apparantly in charge of UK government’s policy on p2p, hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about. In today’s Birmingham Post, Siôn Simon, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Creative Industries at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is quoted as saying the following at the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

The lesson of iTunes and Spotify is that what people want is ease of use and convenience and cheapness. And you only have to look at the decrease there has been in filesharing since the increase in popularity of Spotify.

“You only have to look at the number of people who came off illegal filesharing when iTunes came out to know that filesharing isn’t the answer, it’s not the future, it’s not valuable of itself – it’s a technology that currently is being used to circumvent the law.

“There isn’t an inherent tension between the digital future and a belief in intellectual property. The two can and will coexist. We’ll find business models for people to monetise things like music and video and video games online in a more sophisticated way than they’ve currently done

Sorry Mr Simon, there was no reduction in copyright infringement after Spotify, or iTunes came out. The rate of increase wasn’t as great, but there was no decline. Whoever has told you there was, was telling you lies, and it might be a good idea to ignore them in future. I do agree with you on one aspect though – it’s perfectly plausible for new companies to build new business models to deal with the progress of technology, in fact it’s essential! The truth is, though, there is no evidence that P2P has harmed sales. There is strong evidence (including data published by the very people claiming losses) that it has helped INCREASE sales, certainly sales figures have shown rapid growth in recent years.

There’s also the problem of all those pesky ‘independent studies’. The ones where the people funding, and conducting the study are not involved in the debate.  The vast majority of them find that P2P and filesharing increases sales. The only studies that show it causes a loss are the ones conducted by, or on behalf of, the groups claiming a loss.

Your claim that ‘the technology itself isn’t very useful’ is also staggeringly ignorant. The BBC uses the technology, CNN, countless software companies, bands, independent filmmakers, protesters, and millions of ordinary people around the world use it and find it incredibly useful. I’ll also bet you use P2P a lot, and find it useful. FTPs are a form of P2P, and without that how would any website have new content uploaded? When the Digital Britain report was released, the server hosting it was heavily overloaded, so I helped create a torrent of it, which took a few thousand users of load off the BIS servers, enabling them to serve more people. Is that not ‘useful’?  I’ll tell you this as well, EVERY technology can be used to circumvent the law.

The simple fact is this, Mr Simon, go get the data. Get sales figures, get the raw data behind the studies that claim losses (and better yet, make it public, so we can independently assess the quality of the data and conclusions) and make policy based on it all. Don’t cherry-pick claims from an industry that doesn’t want to change, and wants to stifle competition. Don’t make policy based on the claims of a few industry bigwigs, without questioning the validity of their claims. Acting in that manner will have you called names; names like ‘corrupt’, unethical, and bribe-able. It also shows you not acting for the interests of your constituents, but for the interests of a few large corporations, wishing to keep their stranglehold on an industry.

Walk outside the clutches of lobbyists, and do some basic research. The facts are out there, if you have the integrity to look. I’ll leave you with this comment by Billy Bragg in The Guardian yesterday (thanks for the heads up, Gareth):

…the recording industry will continue to ask legislators for ever tighter sanctions, leading ultimately to an internet controlled by and for big business, which can only be accessed by those willing to pay.

The loss to the creative community would be catastrophic. The internet has made it possible for individual artists to make, distribute and promote their own works with the active support of P2P networks. For new artists to flourish, it is vital that the internet remain free to all.

Like all extortionists,  the Rights-owning industries know that once you’ve paid them off once (with legislation) you’re on the hook to them forever.  Accept one set of fantasy figures and you’ll have to carry on, or else. The only way to avoid it, is to stand up now, for honesty, and demand the raw data. To do anything less would mean the real criminal, is you, Mr Simon.

UK P2P Consultation Response

September 30, 2009 6 comments

The UK P2P consultation closed yesterday. I submitted mine 10 minutes after the deadline, which was to quote Mike Klym in response to a question from my longtime friend and co-worker Ben Jones, “One second to midnight tonight!”

Mine was a little after the deadline, Google records the time as 14 minutes after the hour when it was finally sent (some typos and formatting errors needed correcting last minute). In the email, I apologized for being a little late.

Luckily, they were a little flexible with it, which is unusual for a government department. At 8:25am (BST) this morning, Mike Klym sent me the following reply:


We do allow for injury time!


Which is good:-). He also commented to one of the members of the  UK Pirate Party this morning, congratulating them on being the last response in before the deadline. It seems Mike has a sense of humor. That’s great! All I can say is that reading the consultation document, I was certainly not laughing.

So, my response. As always, produced in OpenOffice, and exported directly to pdf. You can download it here. The document, like the site, is under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.