Guestpost: Pete Wishart MP on why our musicians need ACTA

In response to David Martin MEP’s piece last week on ACTA, and to mark World Intellectual Property Week, the burd is delighted to welcome a fantastic guest post from Pete Wishart with a different view.  Pete is SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire and is the party’s Westminster spokesperson on the constitution, home affairs, culture, media, sport and international development.  He was the keyboard player in Runrig at the height of the band’s fame and is now a member of MP4, a parliamentary “super-group” made up of MPs from all parties.

Imagine if you will, a perfect Saturday afternoon shopping, and you come across your local record store and in the window is a sign – Everything inside absolutely free, open all hours. That would of course be utter madness and totally unsustainable, but this is what goes on every hour of every day on the internet.

Recorded works, films, TV programmes and digital books simply taken for nothing. Artists, musicians and authors go unrewarded for the work they provide and their works reduced to valueless commodities. Worse than that it is illegal. But the Internet service providers (ISPs) and the search engines that direct people to those illegal sites are not prepared to do anything about it.

Not only does it lose artists revenue, it costs jobs. Our creative industries are just about the fastest growing part of our economy and our recovery from recession could be predicated on growth in this sector. The creative industries account for more than 8% of GDP with around 1.3m jobs in the UK. Up to a quarter of a million of these jobs will be at risk if nothing is done about copyright infringement by 2015.

In Scotland ,our creative economy is if anything more important to us as evidenced for example by Dundee’s computer games sector.

But every effort to address piracy and copyright infringement is vigorously opposed. Self appointed digital rights champions have emerged that have led the protests against each and every measure introduced at Westminster, Europe and the States. It is usually done, almost nonsensically, in the name of “civil liberties” and in opposition to “draconian laws”. Myths are invented and we are then invited to accept them as an orthodoxy.

The response to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) fits very neatly into this package and follows the exaggerated indignation to a tee. And what a lot of nonsense has been said about ACTA. ACTA is, in fact, a non-binding agreement that doesn’t even apply to the UK, which has its own Intellectual Property enforcement following the passing of the Digital Economy Act in 2010.

Contrary to what is being claimed, ISPs are not obliged to monitor traffic; ACTA contains no web-blocking provisions; ACTA won’t block generic drugs. But that doesn’t seem to matter to those opposed. They will oppose ACTA, just like they previously opposed the Digital Economy Act, just like they will oppose the next Act and the one after that.

In fact, they will oppose any measure that seeks to ensure that our artists are justly rewarded and our creative industries secure the tools they require to tackle piracy. They, of cours,e say they “oppose” piracy and “respect” copyright but are not prepared to support any measure that will address infringement.

In the UK, the Government will soon bring forward the measures agreed in the DEA. This was the “last” ACTA if you like and I remember the almost identical fury of the digital rights lobby. But people won’t be cut off from the internet as is alleged (the scare tactic is a standard approach of our digital rights friends).

What those found stealing content will receive is a very nice letter asking them to please stop. To stop taking this stuff for nothing because it is illegal and harms the industries they love. These notifications, it is reckoned will address the bulk of piracy. Tougher responses may be required for the more recalcitrant freeloaders but hopefully they too will cease their illegal activity.

If we do nothing as the opponents of ACTA/DEA/THE NEXT ACT suggest, we’re back to that free online shop of my first paragraph.

Your average musician survives on less than £16,000 a year. Jobs are being lost so people can secure their work for nothing. We require the tools to grow our creative sector and ensure that artists are properly rewarded.

This week is World Intellectual Property Week. The main message is that online products, ideas and creative industries should be given the same protection as anything you’d find in a shop in a retail park.

That’s what’s fair and that’s what this is all about.



16 thoughts on “Guestpost: Pete Wishart MP on why our musicians need ACTA

  1. Pingback: Why politicians don’t get the internet | Amused Cynicism

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  3. My response is here: Pete Wishart is a liar who wants to take away your rights.

    Wishart is lying when he says people won’t be cut off. The actual wording of the DEA includes provision for doing just that:

    (2) A “technical obligation”, in relation to an internet service provider, is an obligation for the provider to take a technical measure against some or all relevant subscribers to its service for the purpose of preventing or reducing infringement of copyright by means of the internet.

    (3) A “technical measure” is a measure that … (c) suspends the service provided to a subscriber

    • I have allowed your comment and post link through but you defeat your purpose by being pejorative – you can disagree with someone’s interpretation of legislation without resorting to calling them names. Also, I’d be interested to know what the other options are in the DEA, rather than your selective quoting of one of the options. Which I presume are provided on an “or” basis rather than an “and” – so technically Pete might well be correct in that while it’s an option to suspend the service it is not a given that that would happen in every case – exactly as he suggests in his post.

      • you defeat your purpose by being pejorative

        I’m being pejorative because Wishart, along with most MPs, wants to take away my rights.

        Also, I’d be interested to know what the other options are in the DEA

        According to the full list of options are:

        (a)limits the speed or other capacity of the service provided to a subscriber;
        (b)prevents a subscriber from using the service to gain access to particular material, or limits such use;
        (c)suspends the service provided to a subscriber; or
        (d)limits the service provided to a subscriber in another way.

        Which I presume are provided on an “or” basis rather than an “and” – so technically Pete might well be correct in that while it’s an option to suspend the service it is not a given that that would happen in every case

        But that’s not what he says. His actual words were “but people won’t be cut off from the internet”. It is clear that the bill envisages that some people will be cut off.

        While I don’t like that people will be cut off, because it’s a disproportionate punishment, my much more serious gripe with the DEA is that people will be collectively punished without trial. This is a clear, flagrant breach of the rule of law and of all principles of human rights.

        Anyway, if you’re interested I’d like to do a guest blog on this issue.

      • No, what the law provides for is a series of remedies against breaches. It is not envisaging, it is providing for all eventualities. Pete is right to suggest that most folk won’t be cut off, all the other remedies will be exhausted except, as Pete says, in the most flagrant breaches. People won’t be collectively punished – each individual will be treated as an individual. And there are lots of punishments without trial – speeding fines?

        happy to take a blogpost as long as it’s rational and temperate – will email you.

      • The collective punishment would be cutting of the internet to all the people in a home based on the actions of one person in that home. That is unfair.

  4. Pingback: Edinburgh Pirate Party - Pete Wishart is a liar who wants to take away your rights

  5. We’ve still yet to see any real evidence of how much piracy actually hurts these industries, their ‘lost profits’ numbers are complete works of fiction (see recent TED talk on copyright math

    I have a hard time taking anyone seriously when they support these laws and trade agreements when they’re basing their regulatory decisions on numbers they are fed by the injured party, not calculated by regulated independent bodies, not to mention the fact that studies have actually shown that pirates purchase more music than non-pirates (

    I think we don’t need ACTA, we don’t need more nonsense copyright laws and protections and all the rest that these entertainment industries are asking for, what we need is some hard figures on how much these industries are being hurt before we buy into any of it, and as publicly elected officials, who should have the public interest at heart, you should be asking for the same thing or you’re no longer working for the public interest.

    I’d really love to see these politicians critically think about these numbers instead of parroting them.

    • I think Pete makes the point quite clearly that he is advocating on behalf of artists rather than industries. And how do you know he’s not thought about these numbers? Give our politicians some credit – they are, mostly, hard working, thoughtful, intelligent people who do indeed think about the public interest in how they act or advocate. As David Martin points out, he and Pete are actually not that far removed from each other in terms of their views. And that’s across the parties!

  6. I’m in the middle here. I write as a hobby, and if I did ever make any money, I would most certainly want it protected.

    But I worry about how ACTA may be used with too heavy a hand, despite reassurances to the contrary. There needs to be absolute confidence in the legislation that it will not be abused.

    (Oh, and my mum loves your music Pete!)

  7. Imagine how surprised I am to be agreeing with David Martin. But I do agree with him on ACTA, 110%. And nothing Pete Wishart can say will change my mind.

  8. I hate piracy. I remember a particularly excellent band on MySpace (Vanilla Strangers) sending me their album for free because it was pointless trying to get people to buy it. Albums seem to be turning into little more than promotional tools, used to get you to come to the two tours the band will have that year, with their over-priced tickets (which you may have had to purchase from an online ticket tout after Ticketmaster has allowed people to buy 10 tickets at once) and trying to get you to buy as much merchandise as possible. I fear for the day that bands just stop making albums altogether, especially as some of the finest albums in my collection are by non-touring bands or collaborations between artists who have no time to tour together. Particularly, albums make music timeless – anyone can find out what an amazing wealth of creativity there was in the late 70s and early 80s as these albums are documents to that fact.

    Having said that, I’ve never bought so much music as I did when I downloaded music for free. It might seem a misnomer, but being able to listen to a few tracks from an album first, used to lead me to going into One Up in Aberdeen and buying £100 worth of music in one go. As soon as I stopped (due to SoulSeek making my computer die), my music-buying habit was curtailed also. One of my favourite bands, Tomahawk (one of Mike Patton from Faith No More’s many brilliant side projects), was discovered by downloading a few of their tracks, then going out to get the album.

    Having saidthat, I also realise I’m a dying breed. I refuse to buy music online unless I can’t get the physical album. This means I still place value on the album as a concept. But folk who grow up just downloading some songs aren’t the same, and stuff like Spotify means the idea of listening to an album from start to finish is positively quaint.

    So what’s the answer? Well, I would start off by banning supermarkets from selling music (just like many other non-grocery products), as this takes trade away from genuine music shops. One of the things about downloading music etc is that there is an assumption that every downloaded song is lost income. In many cases, the downloader wouldn’t have even given the band the time of day if they had to buy the track. So the band wouldn’t have gotten that income in the first place. This is why bands like Nine Inch Nails positively encourage downloading, as they see it as a way of widening their audience, who will then buy other facets of their output – those over-priced gig tickets, the £20 t-shirts that would cost about £3 without a band logo on them. Perhaps the most important one is the deluxe editions and box sets, which you can’t download (not until we have 3D printers in every home, at least…)

    In short, I don’t really know the answer, but then, do we really know what the question is? Some people think it’s good that artists are now being compelled to tour more, and when you think about it, musical performance pre-dates recorded music by centuries. We assume that bands have a right to make money out of a physical product, but the reality is their product is their performance, and recorded music has just been about capturing that performance for wider markets. Sometimes it feels like the fuss people like myself make about downloading is just the 21st century equivalent of the scaremongering over people taping music in the 80s. Music didn’t die then, and it’s not dying now (well, it is, but that’s just because bands are so awful these days).

    As far as I’m concerned, the worst thing the internet has done is not allowing people to “steal” music, but to facilitate the emergence of countless awful bands. Finding those few gems is made even tougher now. But then, like with most things, all the internet has done really is democratise music, taking it out of the hands of the record companies, radio pluggers and general “tastemakers”, and put it in our hands. Maybe that’s worth the loss of a few record sales.

    Not so sure about films, although I think the film industry has nipped that in the bud somewhat by being far quicker than the music industry to facilitate people’s thirst for getting things NOW. LoveFIlm, NetFlix and the likes mean there is no need for people to download films illegally, as it’s very simple to get them on your TV etc. Of course, the trend towards 3D cinema is a blatant attempt to stop piracy. 3D is awful, it must be stopped. Just thought I’d throw that in there.

  9. I think Pete is closer to my opinion on ACTA than he thinks. In my statement accompanying my report on ACTA I emphasise the importance of stronger IPR protection for European producers, and call on the European Commission to come forward with new proposals to be discussed with the European Parliament.

    The statement is here:

    To clarify one mistake in his blog – ACTA, if ratified, would indeed be applicable in the UK and binding on all its signatories. The Agreement was negotiated by the European Commission on behalf of all EU Member States, and if it comes into force in the EU it will apply to every Member State, including the UK, equally.

  10. Pingback: Guestpost: Pete Wishart MP on why our musicians need ACTA | Culture Scotland |

  11. First time I’ve agreed 100% with ony politico of ony hue. See also Vivien Scotson’s anti-pay-to-play campaign in Glasgow.

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