For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

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Friday, 4 September 2009

What happens if you press statements ...

A press release from the United Kingdom's Intellectual Property Office on 2 September, "Partnership - The key to protecting the creative industries", is worthy of comment, on the assumption that it reflects British governmental thought on the future of the copyright-based industries. It reads as follows:

"Partnership between government, industry and law enforcement is the key to tackling issues creative industries [When did 'creative industries' become the coded expression for the media alone? The IPKat is sure that pharma, telecoms and civil engineering are also hugely creative ...] face in the digital age said David Lammy, Minister of State for Intellectual Property in the UK, when he addressed the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in Washington today.

The creative industries are big business and are major contributors to the US and British economies, earning them $71 billion and $19 billion each year respectively [But not all of this is the result of creativity, moans Merpel -- how much of it is generated by 'repeats'?].

In times of global economic uncertainty creative industries are a key asset [Aren't they an even bigger (key-er?) asset at times of global economic certainty, if they exist?] and will help ensure economic success in both the short and long term [especially with copyright term extension], provided they give consumers the content they desire [Er, yes].
David Lammy wants to see the US and UK working together to help the industry continue to flourish in both countries.

UK Film Industry research indicates that film and TV industries lost almost a billion dollars in 2007 alone through piracy [sadly, this figure seems fairly small compared to the $19bn mentioned above].

He stressed infringers are depriving creators of the rewards they deserve, but the industry needs to offer consumers what they want and provide attractive alternatives to pirated films [Ah, so the assumption here is that what creators deserve = more than consumers pay pirates but less than they pay for legitimate product?].

David Lammy said:

"For the American and British movie industries, the challenge of the 21st century isn’t persuading people to watch movies. That demand is there already [Not really. People want to watch, and pirates want to pirate, the popular films. The film industry is faced with the challenge of making its movies popular, or they won't be profitable]. It’s making sure those who do watch movies are paying customers. rather than pirates.

"I want to see government, industry and the law enforcement community working together to ensure we find effective tailored solutions to the different challenges that piracy brings us [Closing his eyes for a moment, and ignoring the grandiloquent phrases, the IPKat is striving to visualise what an "effective tailored solution" looks like, never mind what it means].

"Britain is good at enforcing copyright [Nonsense. It's largely copyright owners who do the enforcing, while most of Britain does the infringing]. Partnerships between enforcement agencies, government and industry are yielding good results: in fact, convictions for IP offences have tripled between 2002 and 2007 [Says the IPKat, if I start with one kitten and end up with three, I've tripled the number of kittens -- but it's still a very small number. How many convictions are we actually talking about. And, assuming that some people who are convicted carry out more than one infringement, how many people have been convicted?].

"However rights holders should not be relying on the threat of legal action to force people into buying their products, rather we should be looking for changes in consumer behaviour [Some would say that the current crisis is caused by changes in consumer behaviour. Once they used to pay for everything and couldn't easily share it; now they get lots of content for free and share it] and the way we meet the changing needs of these consumers.

"Partnership [with whom?] and innovation by businesses [note the subtle change: first they were 'creative industries' but now, when we're worrying about timid and uncertain consumers, they are suddenly 'businesses'] can help consumers understand the problems illegal downloads cause creators and performers, giving them the knowledge and confidence they need to act within the law.

"If we provide the right combination of enforcement, education and forward- looking policy we can build a culture that provides consumers with legitimate access to the content they want."
Three little kittens here

4 comments:

Aaron said...

I don't think consumer's behaviour has changed greatly - since the advent of the home tape recorder consumers have been copying.

Surely the difference is in the cost of copying - it is extremely cheap for counterfeiters to copy media, and for consumers to distribute copies. Suddenly the equivalent of copying an album for a "mate" becomes uploading to the community over a p2p network.

Pirates used to be to get content sooner - it still is to some extent.

It would be interesting to do sensitivity testing to content prices - what is the tipping point?

Francis Davey said...

Aaron, an argument, though not one I'm qualified to assess, is that in the case at least of the copyright infringement of musical works in digital form, some of the drive to infringement has been the lack of particular kinds of product and not their price.

So, if I "buy" a song from iTunes, I have a rather different kind of object (because of DRM) than I would if I had bought it on CD. A friend once bought a song and gave it to me (by authorising my computer) as she was entitled to do, but because of account problems she suffered my ability to listen to the song ceased. That isn't the kind of product people want whatever the price - or so I've heard.

To some extent a lot of the moralising on this subject ought to be met by the simple response: who hasn't infringed copyright? Hands up anyone who can honestly, hand on heart, say that they haven't? I suspect that the entirety of the creative industries and their executives are as guilty as anyone, though their infringement may not have been via P2P file sharing. The sooner we lose the moralising and start having a sensible argument about policy the better.

Anonymous said...

Answering the Kat's query about how many people have been 'sentenced' for IP crimes, may I refer everyone to the IP Crime Report 2008-9 (see numbered page 5 and pp 39 onwards and access it via this link on the IPO website: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/pro-policy/pro-crime/pro-crime-report.htm). There's a chart on page 39 and there were 402 convictions in 2002 with 25 custodial sentences, and over 1260 in 2007, of which 268 were custodial sentences. We're not told how long any of these sentences were (with up to 10 yrs available) and to those of us with vindictive leanings, it's disappointing that there weren't more custodial sentences handed down. This may not be surprising when there is a marked tendency (not explored in this report) for judges to regard counterfeiters as providing a wonderful service to the community by offering such inexpensive and readily available goods to consumers.

Anonymous said...

Reading William Patry´s Moral Panics and Copyright Wars, Oxford University Press, 2009, 34-35:
'So it is that an unsourced article from 1993 for global counterfeiting (itself not defined) becam the source for figures allegedly representing unauthorized infringement of copyrighted works in 2008...The point in the Copyright Wars is not to point to real data - quite the opposite, the data is fake - the point is create a sense of siege, of urgency, of a clear and present danger that must be eliminated by either Congress or the courts'.
Patry´s book is a must read for all politicians and judges.

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