Thursday, October 1, 2009

Clueless MP in Charge of Filesharing Crackdown

The MP apparantly in charge of UK government's policy on p2p, hasn't got a clue what he's talking about. In today's Birmingham Post, Siôn Simon, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Creative Industries at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is quoted as saying the following at the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

The lesson of iTunes and Spotify is that what people want is ease of use and convenience and cheapness. And you only have to look at the decrease there has been in filesharing since the increase in popularity of Spotify.

“You only have to look at the number of people who came off illegal filesharing when iTunes came out to know that filesharing isn’t the answer, it’s not the future, it’s not valuable of itself – it’s a technology that currently is being used to circumvent the law.

“There isn’t an inherent tension between the digital future and a belief in intellectual property. The two can and will coexist. We’ll find business models for people to monetise things like music and video and video games online in a more sophisticated way than they’ve currently done
Sorry Mr Simon, there was no reduction in copyright infringement after Spotify, or iTunes came out. The rate of increase wasn't as great, but there was no decline. Whoever has told you there was, was telling you lies, and it might be a good idea to ignore them in future. I do agree with you on one aspect though - it's perfectly plausible for new companies to build new business models to deal with the progress of technology, in fact it's essential! The truth is, though, there is no evidence that P2P has harmed sales. There is strong evidence (including data published by the very people claiming losses) that it has helped INCREASE sales, certainly sales figures have shown rapid growth in recent years.

There's also the problem of all those pesky 'independent studies'. The ones where the people funding, and conducting the study are not involved in the debate.  The vast majority of them find that P2P and filesharing increases sales. The only studies that show it causes a loss are the ones conducted by, or on behalf of, the groups claiming a loss.

Your claim that 'the technology itself isn't very useful' is also staggeringly ignorant. The BBC uses the technology, CNN, countless software companies, bands, independent filmmakers, protesters, and millions of ordinary people around the world use it and find it incredibly useful. I'll also bet you use P2P a lot, and find it useful. FTPs are a form of P2P, and without that how would any website have new content uploaded? When the Digital Britain report was released, the server hosting it was heavily overloaded, so I helped create a torrent of it, which took a few thousand users of load off the BIS servers, enabling them to serve more people. Is that not 'useful'?  I'll tell you this as well, EVERY technology can be used to circumvent the law.

The simple fact is this, Mr Simon, go get the data. Get sales figures, get the raw data behind the studies that claim losses (and better yet, make it public, so we can independently assess the quality of the data and conclusions) and make policy based on it all. Don't cherry-pick claims from an industry that doesn't want to change, and wants to stifle competition. Don't make policy based on the claims of a few industry bigwigs, without questioning the validity of their claims. Acting in that manner will have you called names; names like 'corrupt', unethical, and bribe-able. It also shows you not acting for the interests of your constituents, but for the interests of a few large corporations, wishing to keep their stranglehold on an industry.

Walk outside the clutches of lobbyists, and do some basic research. The facts are out there, if you have the integrity to look. I'll leave you with this comment by Billy Bragg in The Guardian yesterday (thanks for the heads up, Gareth):

...the recording industry will continue to ask legislators for ever tighter sanctions, leading ultimately to an internet controlled by and for big business, which can only be accessed by those willing to pay.
The loss to the creative community would be catastrophic. The internet has made it possible for individual artists to make, distribute and promote their own works with the active support of P2P networks. For new artists to flourish, it is vital that the internet remain free to all.
Like all extortionists,  the Rights-owning industries know that once you've paid them off once (with legislation) you're on the hook to them forever.  Accept one set of fantasy figures and you'll have to carry on, or else. The only way to avoid it, is to stand up now, for honesty, and demand the raw data. To do anything less would mean the real criminal, is you, Mr Simon.

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