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.