With most of our movers and shakers escaping from the stresses of the workplace to holiday in many exotic locales across the globe, the world of IP is generally quiet in August. That is of course, unless you mix your holiday with your work, as Lord Mandelson (First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade and Lord President of the Council) allegedly did this month.
Ten days ago, Lord Mandelson enjoyed dinner with David Geffen – the owner of Geffen Records and co-founder of Dreamworks. David is a vocal critic of file sharers and portable multimedia devices (see Rick Rubin’s mention of Geffen in a New York Times article here). The Daily Mail reported that at this dinner the pair discussed digital piracy, which has reportedly resulted in Lord Mandelson’s interest in the Digital Britain proposals being (re-)sparked. A spokesperson for the Department of Business denied that Lord Mandelson and Geffen’s dinner was indicative of a relationship that could have potentially informed the proposals submitted in Digital Britain.
For those readers who have yet to peruse Digital Britain, the report contained proposals to criminalize copyright infringement for both online and physical infringements in section 107 CDPA with the introduction of custodial sentences and of a statutory maximum of £50,000. The report also contained proposals to limit the bandwidth of file sharers by what is known as ‘bandwidth capping’. On Sunday, The Independent published the opinion of former digital engagement minister Tom Watson’s critique of the Government’s proposals and their expected appearance in this year’s Queen’s Speech. Watson stated that the Government’s proposed sanctions
“ultimately risk criminalizing a large proportion of UK citizens, but they also attach an unbearable burden on an emerging technology that has the power to transform society, with no guarantees at the end that our artists and our culture will get any richer.”The AmeriKat agrees with Watson’s comment. In comparison with the US, where file sharers face a maximum of $150,000 per each willful infringement and criminal prosecution, these proposals seem almost tame. However, the American experience of high awards/fines and criminal sanctions has not resulted in a success story of artists receiving greater compensation or the creative industries being fostered; if anything the US experience should act as a cautionary tale for the UK Government.
From the AmeriKat’s perspective, Lord Mandelson, in positioning himself to be the RIAA of the UK, may well suffer the same backlash RIAA has experienced over the past several years in the US. Where RIAA has sued the hands that have fed them, Lord Mandelson has now found himself in a position of proposing measures that have him prosecuting the hands that may or may not elect the next government.
Annsley thanks her good friend Tara Train for bringing this story to her attention.