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UK Culture Secretary: “Copyright infringement is theft”

September 2, 2014

By Colin Mann

Culture Secretary Said Javid has told the UK music industry that copyright infringement is theft, pure and simple, and confirmed the government’s continued support for initiatives to combat its threat.

Speaking at the British Phonographic Industry AGM, Javid noted that the rise of new technology, new platforms and new ways of sharing and experiencing music had created a wealth of opportunities, but also brought with it new challenges for the industry and new dangers, and recognised that the area where the music industry most want government support was copyright.

“I completely understand why,” he stated. “People in your industry have a true vocation. You identify talented artists and record, release and publicise their work not just to make money, but because you love music. You have a passion for it. And intellectual property protection underpins that passion. It allows you to do what you do best.”

Javid noted that without enforceable copyright there would be “no A&R, no recording studios, no producers, no session musicians, no publicity, no artwork. None of the vital ingredients that take the music created made by talented artists and turn it into something the whole world can enjoy. It’s what our past success was built on, and it’s what our future success depends on.”

He said the digital age had created new threats for copyright holders around the world, reporting that according to Ofcom, in just one quarter of last year almost 200 million music tracks were consumed illegally, and that another 100 million games, films, books and TV programmes were also pirated, just in one three-month period.

“No industry – and no Government – can let this level of infringement continue on such a massive, industrial scale,” he declared. “I know some people say the IP genie is out of the bottle and that no amount of wishing will force it back in. But I don’t agree with them. We don’t look at any other crimes and say ‘It’s such a big problem that it’s not worth bothering with’. We wouldn’t stand idly by if paintings worth hundreds of millions of pounds were being stolen from the National Gallery. Copyright infringement is theft, pure and simple,” he averred.

“It’s vital we try to reduce it. That is why we’re working with the entertainment industry – and the technology industry – to deliver a robust, fair and effective enforcement regime. One that protects the rights of copyright holders and punishes criminals, but doesn’t hamper creativity, stifle innovation or block new, legitimate ways of enjoying music,” he said.

He suggested the Creative Content UK awareness initiative retained the basic idea of the Digital Economy Act, that millions of people would be contacted directly if they were caught infringing copyright, a powerful tool to influence behaviour.

“However, as an industry-led initiative rather than a top-down government one, it will be quicker, more responsive and cheaper to enact. CCUK will also be easier to adapt as new threats to intellectual property emerge. That’s a real asset in an age where technology consistently moves faster than legislation. But just because it is an industry-led initiative does not mean that Government is not actively supporting it. We’re providing £3.5 million for a broad educational campaign that explains why copyright matters and where the boundaries lie. A generation of young people have grown up under the impression that if something’s on the Internet it should be free. We need to get the message across that if they value creativity – and most do – then it has to be paid for,” he stated.

He advised that the government was looking carefully at responses to recent reports from the Prime Minister’s adviser on Intellectual Property into the role of search engines and ‘following the money’, and that he would be considering how best to move forward. “You can expect to hear more from me on this in the coming months,” he confirmed.

He said that search engines also had to play their part. “They must step up and show willing. That’s why Vince Cable and I have written to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, asking them to work with you to stop search results sending people to illegal sites. And let me be perfectly clear: if we don’t see real progress, we will be looking at a legislative approach. In the words of Martin Mills: “Technology companies should be the partners of rights companies, not their masters.”

He likened the Government, the music industry and the technology companies to “three sides of the same triangle” when it came to tackling IP theft. “We are all connected, we all have a role to play, and we must all work alongside each other to build a fair and legal online economy,” he concluded.

Categories: Articles, Content, Piracy, Policy, Regulation, Rights