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Digital Economy: The Mandelson letters

Rory Cellan-Jones | 09:55 UK time, Friday, 26 March 2010

Last September, as debate raged about the government's plans to crack down on illegal file-sharing - and the extent to which they might have been influenced by lobbying - the BBC put in a freedom-of-information request to the Department for Business. We requested information about any correspondence relating to online piracy or illegal file-sharing.

Now, after a long wait, we've been supplied with a stack of letters to and from Lord Mandelson and other ministers relating to this issue. Those looking for a smoking gun - perhaps a despatch from a Hollywood tycoon warning "Cut 'em off or else!" - may be disappointed.

But the letters do show a sustained campaign of lobbying in favour of the Digital Economy Bill by music-industry trade bodies - and by opponents trying to persuade Lord Mandelson that some of its measures will be damaging to civil liberties, as well as being costly and ineffective.

I have gone through the correspondence to provide edited highlights - and you can look at the documents themselves by clicking on the links at the bottom of this post. Readers may of course wish to "crowdsource" a search for some unnoticed gem.

The first letter is in July, after the publication of the Digital Britain report, but before Lord Mandelson decided to toughen up the measures against illegal file-sharers. The trade body Respect For Film is obviously impatient for the report to be acted on: Lavinia Carey of the British Video Association writes:

While we would prefer technical measures to be implemented earlier in the suggested process...we recognise that this must be balanced against the urgency for legislation to be implemented... It is crucial to the success of content providers in a digital economy that this legislation gets onto the statue(sic) book before the General Election

But a few weeks later, Lord Mandelson announced that the bill was going to be toughened up, bringing in those technical measures which could see repeat offenders disconnected temporarily from the internet for illegal file-sharing.

could exacerbate the problem of copyright infringement by encouraging users to encrypt their dataIn August, the internet service provider Orange warned that the measures would be "expensive to implement and operate", were unlikely to be successful, and could have unintended consequences. The ISP said that the threat of disconnection "could exacerbate the problem of copyright infringement by encouraging users to encrypt their data."

In late September, U2's manager, Paul McGuinness, wrote to the business secretary welcoming the tougher stance, and warning that it was crucial the measures were implemented as soon as possible.

The explosion in unauthorised file-sharing in the last few years has made it virtually impossible to envisage where the investment needed to support the great acts of the future is going to come from

Other trade bodies weighed in with their support. The music-licensing body PPL told Lord Mandelson, "It is time we had an online world more akin to the High Street than the wild West."

The Music Publishers Association said a significant reduction in unlicensed file-sharing was a "critical goal for the UK music industry" which played an enormous role in the country's economy and culture.

Feargal Sharkey of UK Music said online piracy was "shaking the economic foundations on which the entire music industry depends," and attached statements of support from musicians including Lily Allen, Gary Barlow, Mika, and Mark Ronson. Alesha Dixon, saying she was joining her fellow musicians to condemn illegal file-sharing, wrote: "I feel it is no different to theft".

The documents released by the Department for Business also include many letters from constituents protesting about the bill, passed on to Lord Mandelson by MPs. One letter has a note from MP Clare Short in which she confesses "I am afraid I do not really understand the complaint but I would be grateful for your response."

But did the office of the Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner merely cut and paste from a constituent's angry denunciation of the bill? A letter from the MP to the business secretary, passing on the constituent's correspondence, starts "Dear Mr Mandelson", but is then headed "Ramifications of Mr Mandelweasel's 3 strikes and disconnect policy".

Ramifications of Mr Mandelweasel's 3 strikes and disconnect policy

Documents for download

Correspondence with Stephen Timms; letter from Which (pp25-9) etc [1.62Mb PDF]
Letter from UK Music (pp17-22); letter from Music Publishers' Association (pp31-2); letter from PPL (p37) etc [1.89Mb PDF]
Petition (pp1-2); briefing note to No 10 (pp3-4); letter from Creative Coalition Campaign (pp9-11); letter from a group of managers, and reply (pp13-15) etc [2.60Mb PDF]
Letter from Respect For Film (pp1-3); letter from Orange (pp5-8) etc [1.75Mb PDF]
"Mandelweasel" letter from MP (p1) etc [2.19Mb PDF]

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    On one hand we have a rights industry based on the concept of 'mechanical copyirght' i.e. a piece of media that can be owned and secured by an individual.

    On the other, a new way of living where the medium is simply a bunch of bits floating around cyberspace.

    What's missing from the debate, is any acknowledgement from anyone in the 'rights industries' that the mechnical rights models we have are outdated and need to change. Instead, they lobby to force artificial and cumbersome mechanics on us all that bends the world to fit their outdated way of doing things.

    If we re-thought the rights models, then more artists would get more money, for longer, and the consuming public would feel they were getting value, and would not feel the need to steal media. This is the voice missing from the lobbyists you've dug out.

    Maybe the artists whose works have been 'deleted' from the back catalogue should be campaigning for a new rights model that gives them the right to re-release their works in digital media, so they can make the money they deserve and we can listen to the music we want to?!

  • Comment number 2.

    Lord Mandelweasel is many things, but one thing he is not is stupid enough to write the incriminating stuff down.

    Those conversations are for having face to face, over lunch, on a yacht.

  • Comment number 3.

    "It is time we had an online world more akin to the High Street than the wild West."

    I concur with this statement.

    The Pirate Party & Co were protesting near Parliament this week. I wonder what they were shouting?

    "Stuff musicians and the thousands of men and women who work in the creative industries! Defend our right to download music without fair payment!" (http://is.gd/b0c0l%29

    They have managed to attract around 10,000 signatures calling for anti-piracy measures in the Digital Economy Bill to be scrapped, after the petition was spread around unlawful file sharing forums. :/

  • Comment number 4.

    Have to agree with all in comment #1

    The Internet & all that surrounds it has led to people, society & business having to evolve & adapt beyond the 60's & 70's.

    But Music & Film industry in particular seem to think due to their financial clout & size, that they needn't evolve & that their (steam powered) irrelevant way of thinking is the only way to go!
    So like a dinosaur their place in the world is becoming uninhabitable & leading to extinction.

    So it leads to the question why wont the Government allow the big entertainment -lumbering dinos- to die off?
    ...Thus allowing the smaller -more agile- entertainment companies who have & will evolve & are using the new technologies to roll out their products in a more convienent, economical, relevant, & contemporary (digital) way!

  • Comment number 5.

    All this time, effort and expense...

    Just as well it's extremely difficult encrypt your connection to the internet! For example if every Mac OS X or Linux user could simply enter a 1 line command and encrypt all their web traffic without needing any extra software it would make all this a big waste of time wouldn't it?

    Hmm, wonder what this does?

    ssh -D 9999 your_username@some_server_you_have_ssh_access_to

  • Comment number 6.

    Ewan,
    Sorry you are wrong, Lord Mandelweasel did not have such a conversation on a yacht, it was at a villa (but of course denied)
    see here

    http://www.politics.co.uk/news/culture-media-and-sport/mandelson-s-filesharing-corfu-link-denied-$1321086.htm

  • Comment number 7.

    Perhaps it's important to look back at the origins of Copyright and the "civil contract" that it resulted in. The big media interests particularly, but also the creators to come extent, have gained huge financial benefits over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries with very little being returned to society.

    We started out with a period of 14 years from original publication (two apprentiships worth) which has gradually been increased to 90 years after the original creators/authors death - which is way beyond a reasonable period of income for, say, two generations of the creators decendents. In that time, we, the public have got no concessions back.

    Perhaps it's time to require some rollback in the extent of the "Disney Clause" in the period of Copyright and let the works revert to public ownership much sooner ?

  • Comment number 8.

    #7:

    Totally agree. The period of copyright is way too long. The purpose of intellectual property rights is to give people an incentive to create something, knowing that their creation will be protected for a period of time.

    If patents last for 25 years, it seems totally anomalous that copyright should last so much longer. Isn't it more important to incentivise, say, a drug that could cure cancer than some mindless song?

    If anyone writes any good songs, then they really ought to get a reasonable return on their investment in the first 25 years.

  • Comment number 9.

    This issue of copyright theft is an issue yet the outdated and unscrupulous business models. There's money to be made from being a little more liberal and being forward thinking in approaching the internet. Instead they choose the model which they've used to exploit the consumer for years.

    "shaking the economic foundations on which the entire music industry depends," is line of thinking is that the major labels ARE the whole industry, they fail to understand that many record labels have now adapted to the changed landscape and and looked to release their music for free and find other revenues for there music. Spotify and Bandcamp are two examples of forward thinking companies who have found a place in this new brave world and the longer these "Major" labels continue to fail to adapt the more their species is less likely to survive in the new world.

  • Comment number 10.

    #3: As the guy in the blue shirt in that picture I can tell you we weren't shouting very much - this was a protest against draconian censorship laws. Most people who attended had duct tape over their mouths.

    While I can't deny that the link to the petition was spread far and wide, it was *not* only copyright infringers who sent letters to their elected representative. The Digital Economy Bill does away with due process. How would you feel if you were accused of breaking the law and then had to pay to prove your innocence? It's completely backwards.

  • Comment number 11.

    What I fail to see addressed in all this, is that by default the bill can and will criminalise tens of thousands of innocent net users. No real provisions to deal with the possability of even a secured wireless connection (which in itself is fairly easy to hack) being used by a non subscriber of a given connection has been made or mentioned?.

    What protection would the bill have to ensure innocent net users are not labeled as criminals by default by the way in which this bill would almost certainly be used to prosicute people?.

  • Comment number 12.

    I'm wondering if the commenter thepowerofxin/comment#3 has taken the time to read the manifesto of the ukpirateparty?

    Available here => http://ow.ly/1reTF .

    IMHO, the points raised by their manifesto seem quite reasonable; More so than certain clauses of the Digital Economy Bill, seemingly written by the people set to benefit by it.

  • Comment number 13.

    Even if they somehow manage to stop all net-based file sharing, piracy will continue. How can they stop people copying a CD for a friend? How can they stop people giving hard-drives of thousands of mp3s to a friend? Okay, that limits what you can get hold of to your friends tastes but I know groups of people with similar tastes in music who make up a 'wants list', divide it between them, buy those albums on their part of the list and copy the rest.
    And who let that particular cat out of the bag? The music industry who converted music to a stream of ones and zeros 30 years ago.

  • Comment number 14.

    "Alesha Dixon, saying she was joining her fellow musicians to condemn illegal file-sharing, wrote: "I feel it is no different to theft"."

    Remind me again, where exactly did Miss Dixon read law?

    The copyright holders - not content creators - have spent a hell of a lot of time and money trying to confuse a civil offence that's on a par with a parking ticket with a criminal offence like theft.

    What confuses me is how any of this is even happening given that the record companies told us that home taping killed off music in the eighties. They are the least productive and least useful part of the transaction, but they demand the biggest slice of the pie at the expense of creators and consumers.

  • Comment number 15.

    The most powerful profit making part of the industry, is control of distribution. This was at the core of the old business model, hence the effort they're putting into maintaining that model for the internet too.
    As a composer, i'm a little sad when people rip off my music, and i know that most people won't ever care if it's right or not. Such is life, and it's my choice if i accept this or not.
    But i'm also an independent, and want nothing to do with an industry that has ripped off consumers with staggering price markups for years. If we weighed up how many overpriced CDs and DVDs have been sold, versus the alleged scale of loss through online piracy, it may be enlightening for all.
    I would hope there's enough people out there willing to pay something for my music, and the music of other indy's out there, if they like it (and so far i'm paying the bills). Contrary to the profiteering intent of the "industry" i think the interlink is a great way to weed out the wall of "musical" mediocrity the public has been subjected to for many years, and as is the case in so many other industries, who don't have a non-elected, twice disgraced for a lack of integrity business secretary in their pocket, the cream rises to the top, and those who can't keep up fold up their tents, and go away.
    There may actually be an upside to the current rampant piracy, if the industry is allowed to follow its natural course, and evolve, without interference. Talented performers and composers will gain a genuine following, and as has been the case in the past, those fans are generally prepared to reward those who provide them with decent entertainment, and music or film they enjoy listening to or watching, without having to pay the talentless bean-counters, and greedy middlemen in the process.
    Contrary to the perception being carefully and aggressively marketed by the "industry", music sales won't die, and writers and performers won't go that hungry. There might be less of them, and they might have to work a bit harder to gain and keep fans, but a new model will evolve that will give consumers a lot more choice, and without being fleeced for it, in the process.
    Whatever the lure of the tax receipts involved through excessively priced CDs, and DVDs, Govs need to stay out of this one, and let the "industry" find its own level. It'll take a while, but it may well be a better result in the longer term, for consumers and performers/writers alike.

  • Comment number 16.

    I really don't believe this Bill will ever make it anywhere besides the waste paper bin.

  • Comment number 17.

    Another peice of usless legislation from someone who hasn't a clue how the internet works.
    This notion that they are loosing Billions is a load of tosh! Lets be clear for those that are any good the opposite is true. More exposer = more ticket sales = higher profile = more album sales. What would they rather do sell 20 albums and have 20 people come to the gig or sell 30 albums and have 200. Oh my 50 of them downloaded thats 50 lost sales NO IT ISN'T thats 180 extra tickets and 10 extra album sales.
    Those its targeted at will have moved on to encrypted systems anyways.

  • Comment number 18.

    Oh, will no one rid us of these troublesome priests?

  • Comment number 19.

    Maybe Feargal Sharkey should have a word with Lily Allen
    This says it all http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL9-esIM2CY

  • Comment number 20.

    The recording industry needs to recognise the value of piracy to us in terms of what it's forced them to do for us. Imagine if no online pirates had ever existed. Would we have legal services like Spotify? No. The record industry would still be expecting us to go to the town and buy a few songs on a plastic disc for £16 or so. We would still be doing that today if it wasn't for the pirates. In fact, if it was up to the record industry, we'd all go back to vinyl. They only switched to CD because they figured it would be more secure, and they could add extra profit margins onto the discs. How wrong they were! They just provided us with the perfect medium for putting our song collections in computer!

    The pirates have forced the record industry's hand, and now there are a few legal services online. Sadly, the biggest online music provider I know, Spotify, is using P2P to distribute tracks (which is the main reason why I don't use it, I hate P2P. Another big provider is Grooveshark, but when I've been to their site recently, the ads have contained embedded viruses! Not a good way of attracting customers!

    Someone mentioned in the post above that what we want is a digital high street not a digital wild west. I couldn't agree more, but for that to happen the legal services need to start arriving. What we have is still too fragmented. There's bits here, bits there, no global system. P2P is a global system that contains everything under one roof, that's why people use it. It's a digital supermarket. That's what the legal services need to compete with. If I want to find a rare song, I know I'll have a much higher chance of finding it from a pirate service than legally - where's the sense in that? The reason is because the pirates don't have to wade through a million different contracts, where songs are licensed to particular parts of the world at different times and all this rubbish.

    I do hate online piracy but these half hearted attempts at legal services, and the constant daily news of legal action threats by law firms, they really don't do the record industry any good. It's not just the pirates that need to wake up, it's the recording industry too. Sort out your distribution network, license every song on the planet and put it all under one roof where the record company/artist gets a cut from every sale. Make it so that I can do to a variety of websites, and they're all linked up to this global distribution network, so I can access all my music there legally. The record industry could license the distribution network to content providers who would charge us to buy songs (or listen low quality for free). And don't start with the DRM rubbish again, all the record industry did with that is turn lots of people off legal downloads, waste years in developing it, spend lots of money it and it gave them nothing.

    Let people search for anything they want, and find it, in low quality free music or high quality paid for downloads. It's been proven time and time again that people who pirate music spend more on legal music. I've been introduced to no end of acts I'd never even heard of before I started watching music on Youtube. One of my favourite songs ever is on Youtube right now, yet I'd never heard of the band before I found them in a random search. And I still would never have heard of them if it wasn't for Youtube. So I might well go and buy their album (if I can find it online, if I can be bothered to look since it's much eaiser to go to youtube.com, where is the recordindustry.com?) What's stopping me from buying it is knowing that the money goes to the record industry, who want to use that money to sue everyone for using a service which they don't provide.

    Everytime a song is removed from Youtube because a record company has complained, just read the comments that people post underneath. Phrases like "STUFF YOU RECORD INDUSTRY" are common. That's a very good way of getting all your buyers to hate you, and that doesn't really do any good for sales. Not only that, but if the music isn't there, people can't hear it for the first time, so you've just killed your own publicity machine. The record industry should be paying Youtube for promotions not the other way around. I'm sure they get more sales from videos promoted on Youtube than they would if they got their way and blocked access to everything.

    If you don't provide a service yourself, how do you expect to get any revenue from it? Youtube is providing a service of promoting music through its online videos. To take my example again, I was introduced to bands on Youtube that inspire me to spend real money on real albums and listen to their music in high quality. And this is a service which Viacom is trying to stop! Are they crazy? Youtube is Viacoms free publicity network and they want to shut it down? That goes to show how out of touch they really are. If Youtube didn't have these videos, I'd never listen to them and then I'd never buy anything.

    To be honest, I don't accept all the music industry warnings about the end of music in the UK, etc. I think what needs to happen is the music industry needs to take some more hits, they need to lose some more money. Eventually, they'll be brought down to our level and work with us, not against us. They'll start again, with more money going to the artist and less to the record producer, more artists producing their own music and uploading their own songs to the internet for other people to try or buy. There's too many bosses in the music industry all expecting to be paid high salaries from people buying the CDs of the main stars. They're right, that income won't be there with the next generation, but asking Mandelson to fix it yet more wasted time.

    When the record industry has lost enough, it'll reinvent itself with the artists at the front, and then we can start moving forwards with a truly internet-driven music world. Don't be disillusioned by the current record industry's warnings about the end of UK music, what they mean is it's the end of the big fat record producers making millions from over charging on compact discs. And the sooner that happens, the better.

  • Comment number 21.

    "It is time we had an online world more akin to the High Street than the wild West."

    I definitely do not concur with this statement. The high street's round me are mostly dead, instead large multinational corporations have taken over with big shopping malls, to the detriment of smaller local businesses. The Internet is a great place, not just for shopping, but a whole lot more. This bill is a step towards a control over the Internet that will effect more than just online pirating, but go towards hampering freeness of speech and innovation. Hope my internet access doesn't end up like my local high street.

  • Comment number 22.

    France bought in a three strikes rule in January this year (Loi HADOPI) The first analysis of the effect of this law is that illegal file sharing has increased, yes, increased by 3%. The effect of the proposed UK law will be to potentially punish innocent people and have no positive effect on illegal downloads. A case of being seen to be doing something to keep the music industry happy whilst achieving absolutely nothing - smoke and mirrors

  • Comment number 23.

    Further to my previous post, just as those who may illegally download tend to also spend more on legal downloads, cutting these people off from an Internet connection will mean they can no longer purchase downloads legally and the revenue from legal downloads will reduce. The phrase "cutting your nose off to spite your face" comes to mind.

  • Comment number 24.

    The Canadian government holds privacy and freedom in high regard and ISPs are not forced to maintain logs of IP addresses. Anyone who can afford a few pounds a month and is capable of searching Google for a Canadian VPN can surf and download anonymously anywhere. Please tell me how this bill will stop 'illegal' downloading?

    It will punish the innocent, the poor and the unwitting. What makes it sickening is that it has all party agreement. And the politicians wonder why the public is disaffected.

  • Comment number 25.

    I think the issue here is that we have an out dated process trying to deal with new media. The lobbyists and Mandelweasel (love that better than The Prince of Darkness) are looking at how to re-apply a financial model from the 20th century on to one from the 21st. We no longer buy physical media (CDs, DVDs, etc) rather we download content.

    Now here's the trick, I used to lend DVDs to my friends to watch and I might have got them back one day a few months later. In essence file sharing at its route could be seen in a similar light. The only real issue is when it's blown out of proportion into an industry. The key here is perceived value, if we believe that 79p for a track on iTunes is good value then fine but when the music industry tries to enforce massive piles of legislation on to this space then the real pirates will disappear underground and people who try to share music and films with their friends will be the only people punished.

    Remember the internet has no national boundaries.

  • Comment number 26.

    I propose that these laws apply to any work in digital form:

    1 It is the responsibility of the rights owners, and only them, as part of their business to protect there works. Any work which is not publicly available is no longer covered by any rights. Copyright is global and may not be subdivided in place or time. The maximum time of copyright is 20 years (maybe 10?).

    2 The Internet is an open conduit, just like roads, electricity, gas and water supplies it is something we can expect to have legally provided with no limitations.

    3 Copying of a right protected work and passing the copy to another person is illegal. Making available copies for distribution is illegal. Making a copy for yourself is not.

    4 A consumer has all his usual rights - to lend or resell the rights protected work itself, but not a copy. He has also the right to copy or move the work from one place to another, for himself or in his home, to equipment that belongs to him, including changing the form of expression.

    5 A consumer has also the responsibility to protect the works of a rights holder he has purchased against copying for public distribution.

    6 No DRM owned or imposed solely by a rights holder or which limits consumer rights may be applied by the rights owner to a work. Consumers may apply their own DRM to protect their purchases. Any product or service which breaks a customer's DRM is illegal.

  • Comment number 27.

    @15 - I totally agree with you mate. The 'industry' must be allowed to rise or fall on it's own without any government intervention. After all, this is what the Government itself tells us when people question why it does not help with the ailing steel industry. It is the consumer who will decide how and what they will buy and (eventually) how much they are willing to pay for it.

    I also fully support the rights of a creative artist to ask people to pay for the work they produce. I also think that should they wish to do this they should be adequetly protected by the law.

    What really gets me with this particular argument is the claims of billions of pounds/dollars of loss by the media companies. They are living in fantasy land if they think that every person who downloaded an illegal copy of something would have otherwise bought it. I suspect that in reality those who wish to buy there creative media (like me) will do so and those who do not, will not, regardless of what the law or the penalties are.

    And then ultimately is the fact that this law is completely impossible to police. There is no way that the ISPs have the resources to track every piece of internet traffic (even if it remains unencrypted), filtering out what is copyrighted material, and then trying to work out if the downloader had the right to download it. Even if they do manage to do it, securing a conviction on the basis that it is an IP address that downloaded the material and not an individual will be very hard indeed.

    All of this, just because the Media Industry did not see the internet as a viable sales channel. If they had organised themselves properly from the beginning rather than starting from a position of litigation then they would not be in this mess.

  • Comment number 28.

    They may not be able track every piece of internet traffic - but surely trying to slow down the amount of illegal downloading on the internet is a good cause.

    truly I do not understand piracy, if you have downloaded an mp3 it is physically there on your hard drive to listen to - why not be honest and pay for it - you have possession of the mp3 - and then to make things even worse people then fileshare with a million strangers worldwide - no paying customers there.

    You sign up for the internet ... it is your responsibility (see your contract) to police your own account to make sure illegal activities do not happen on it.

  • Comment number 29.

    @28 - To track every piece of traffic will be very expensive and have a detramental effect on the speed of traffic. The expense incurred by the ISPs will be passed on to us, the consumer. Therefore, these measures will cost ALL of us regardless of whether we are downloading illegally or not.

    The government has previously stated (although I have not seen a comment for a while) that the responsibility is with the owner of the internet account to have adequate security and therefore it will be the owner of the connection who is prosecuted if downloads are traced to that IP address. This is a very dangerous way forward. With the right tools and some effort you can break into any wireless (or even wired) connection. What this will do is effectively close down any public access wireless networks (such as in towns, libraries, cafes etc) as the owners of these services will be terrified of prosecution. The best analogy I can think of is, if someone steels your car to commit a crime, is it you that should be prosecuted as you obviously had not secured it properly? Also, with an internet connection, you will probably not know if someone is stealing it unless you are yourself running monitoring software and being extremely vigilant.

    I have no sympathy for most illegal downloaders/filesharers, but this is not the way to go about stopping it. Mainly because you will never, ever stop it from happening - we have come too far now. All the industry can do is be more realistic about who is going to buy their output anyway and then market and price it attractively. They also need to distribute it in a way that is attractive too (easily downloaded, fully transferable, no DRM). As I previously stated I firmly believe that a vast number of those who illegally obtain this media would never have bought it anyway.

  • Comment number 30.

    "6. At 12:54pm on 26 Mar 2010, Colin wrote:
    Ewan,
    Sorry you are wrong, Lord Mandelweasel did not have such a conversation on a yacht, it was at a villa (but of course denied)
    see here

    http://www.politics.co.uk/news/culture-media-and-sport/mandelson-s-filesharing-corfu-link-denied-$1321086.htm"

    So this is the second conversation that mandy did not have before he changed policy? The other was something to do with an exminister boasting that for £5000 a day he could change policy and to prove his case gave an example where he rang Peter and a policy was changed.... Simplies.

  • Comment number 31.

    Piracy is illegal and unfair to the artists who don't get paid. That, I think, is an accurate statement to make. The people who create the various types of content - music, films, even books these days - deserve to be rewarded for their efforts. However, the change to digital distribution mechanisms, which are substantially cheaper to run, has not seen any real drop in price for that digital content.
    With digital music distribution in particular, there is often little difference in the price of a downloaded album as compared to bying the CD from an online store, even though the quality of the digital download is substantially lower than the CD.
    With books, despite the fact that reading ebooks requires some pricey hardware to being with, the prices are almost identical to the physical book, even though there are no printing costs.
    I believe that the majority of people are willing to pay the artists for their work, if only because it means that said artist will then be able to continue producing their works. What causes the issue is the ridiculous profit margins being extracted by the content distributers. That's what has to change before piracy will truly be reduced. Get the pricing right, more appropriate to the actual costs of the distribution medium, and people will pay it.

  • Comment number 32.

    @28

    What if it's impossible to buy a legal mp3, because the record company decided in the 90s to delete the album (and hence 2nd hand copies are going for £40+ [of which none of that money goes to the artists/RCs because they have already had their share when it was orginally purchased]) and the RC haven't gotten around to putting it up on legal download sites and doesn't seem likely to do so.

    I once heard a good idea, that band websites could have a 'donate' button on, the music is free to download but the listener is free to donate money directly to the band via say paypal or purchase a CD if they so wish directly from the website.

  • Comment number 33.

    "Copyright theft", at least in this context, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I'd also like to point out that it is impossible to stop piracy. They may reudce filesharing, but P2P will only be replaced by services like RapidShare, or people will simply take steps to hide themselves online while using BitTorrent etc. Look at what's happening in France if you need evidence of this.

  • Comment number 34.

    I think no 31 (Alex) hit the nail on the head.

    Digital distribution has reduced costs. However, this is not often reflected in the price of eBooks, digital music etc.

    The public perception is that the music, movie and publishing industries wants to have it both ways. If the cost of online digital media reflected this reduced cost it would be more attractive. After all people like a bargain.

    In my mind there are two types of pirate:

    1) Those who will NEVER pay for anything;
    2) Those who would like to pay for the media they want, but cannot legally obtain the product they want at a fair price.

    Consider the following:

    - Artists who have a considerable back catalogue find their work underrepresented. This is frustrating to music fans.

    - Current artists whose company uses many versions of songs in promotion, but then does not commercially release them, creating interest in a product which is then unsatisfied.

    - The release of a CD, book or DVD, only for a "special edition" to be released a few months later once initial interest has faded.

    - eBooks will remain slow to take off if an electronic version, without printing and physical distribution issues, costs the same as a physical product.

    The media companies have manipulated buyers for years.

    Before any draconian laws are considered, the fat cat providers of digital media need to get their own house in order. Or has the sheer greed of these moguls blinded them to the consistent raw deal they give their customers? Would THEY obtain products from a provider who treasts them with such obvious comtempt?

    The government should also seek advice from Joe Public and ask him why he "steals" music.

    I want to buy my media. But only at a fair price and have a good choice.

  • Comment number 35.

    Hidden away under Clause 43 of the Digital Economy Bill which has received very little coverage in the press are huge implications for for photographers, illustrators etc due to changes to the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act of 1988.

    No debate will be allowed - that would never be allowed to happen in a civilised country like ours, would it?

    There is a website detailing all the issues and implications http://www.stop43.org.uk/

 

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