Piracy – all those in favour, say aye!

I was alerted last night by a tweet from Tom Watson to this article which was written in response to the IP debate in Westminster Hall that I mention in the blogpost below. I think it’s fair to say that Tom and I are in rather different places on this – his tweet said “Uh oh. Here we go again. Minister says website blocking proposals imminent” and then he links to the article, which seems to be saying that it’s wrong to close down illegal filesharing sites.

The tone of the article is irritating, to put it mildly. It starts by sneering at ‘pro-copyright MPs having a little “chit chat” (by which the author means a 90 minute Westminster Hall debate, that I thought was actually rather well-informed and wide-ranging, and was of course open to MPs of all opinions to attend). To accuse Pete Wishart – who I don’t know at all really, but he speaks from the perspective of many years as a professional musician – of being in hock to the BPI and seduced in his arguments by an invite to the Brit awards is cheap, and typical of the ad hominen attacks that are too often a substitute for proper debate. If you think copyright is wrong, then explain why. Otherwise it’s just lazy.

For the record, I’ve been invited to the Brit awards too, but the invite came several years after I first expressed the views in the blogpost below – and anyone who knows me will know that I’m not going to get too excited about a show featuring Adele, Ed Sheeran, Rhianna… Mildly curious best sums it up.  I’ve just heard that Blur are reforming and playing five songs on the night, which will be fun, but the suggestion that this is enough to ‘buy’ my opinion is just ludicrous. In any event, it looks like we might we voting on the Welfare Reform Bill amendments from the Lords that day – Feb 21st – and if we are, then I’ll be giving the Brits a miss.




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  • Jonneh  On February 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    I have to say that you seem to always leap to the conclusion that anyone who is anti-DEAct is somehow in favour of piracy, which is something which I am starting to find a bit offensive.

    Just because there are those of us who worry about our free speech online and the threat that loose and lazy legislation could pose to it does not mean that we are all thieves. I agree that the article iin question doesn’t do itself any credit because it doesn’t really go into any of the more potent arguments, but it still doesn’t seem to me that it is “pro piracy” as your blog seems to suggest, and indeed as you have suggested to me that I am during our various exchanges.

    I support copyright, and the rights of the individual to protect his IP. I’m sure Tom Watson does as well. What I do not support is people with a strong financial interest “buying” legislation with lobbyists and donations to ministers etc. Wasn’t that your stance as well? I figured it was from your comments on the NHS bill etc.

    Well, the DEAct and SOPA/PIPA etc are all born from the MPAs wallet. Are they objective enough to write the kind of fair minded law we need to sort out this delicate issue?

    Before you condem the pro internet free speech movement, I’d hope that you take the time to sit and look at the legitimate arguments on sites like thwe open rights group

    • kerrymccarthy  On February 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm

      I thought the article was quite clearly anti-copyright?

      • Jonneh  On February 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm

        Proponents of tighter controls attempt to artificially polarise the debate on the subject at hand. Either you support the legislation or “you support piracy”.

        That is simply not the case, and I warn against a similar perception creeping into your thoughts on the matter, as well as Westminster as a whole.

        As I said above, the article linked is not a good example of legitimate arguments against the DEAct. I don’t see it openly supporting piracy either though, merely being slightly flippant about the appearance that MPs seem to be comfortable mixing socially with people who may have interests in influencing policy for their own agenda. Much as Mr Watson has spent the last god-knows-how-long exposing in the media.

        Please have a read of the following;


        Pay particular attention to this last link, its about SOPA and PIPA in the US, but it all applies to the DEAct too.

        There are many more examples.

        In my experience the people pressing for tighter controls are the ones with the all-or-nothing attitude towards digital copyright policy. Most independent research into the subject of piracy that I have seen finds that tighter controls result in more piracy and civil disobedience rather than less.

        That makes sense to me, since I myself pirated a book less than 3 months ago. It was released in the US on paperback and Amazon Kindle, but was only available in physical form on the UK version of the site. I didn’t really want to buy the damn book, since I got a kindle to save trees and space etc. It seemed counter-productive to me, so I downloaded the book “illegally” until such time as it eventually appeared on the .co.uk site for purchase. (Some 3 months later can you believe?)

        Just a small example I know, but as a young(?) person who uses the internet for entertainment and media, I can see how getting the media you want when you want it can drive some people to piracy, simply because the right’s holders are stuck in a world 15 years ago where they want you to purchase their content through clunky physical means, rather than innovating into the 21st century.

        This “casual” piracy is what could be easily combated without internet website blocking. A procedure which _will not work_ to stop the more hardened criminals, simply because it is counter to the very nature of the internet.. allowing them to circumvent such controls which will force even stronger controls… can you see where it ends? The loose controls afforded by the DEAct will have the MPAA and its supporters demanding even stricter punishments and faster closures of websites. Even major internet services like Google and Wikipedia are at risk, hence why they joined in the opposition to similar legislation in the US and forced it back from senate approval. Can you imagine wikipedia being taken down because of policy like the DEAct? Insanity. Utter insanity.

        I say that the process needs to start at the source. The industry should innovate and make its content more easily available. It has already begun, with legitimate streaming sites gaining more and more licence to broadcast content on demand. The NetFlix service recently launched in the UK, and I was overjoyed. My other half has already watched countless hours of content on there in our first month of subscription. Affordable and convenient. Much more so than going to a shop and buying a DVD on a whim because you quite fancy watching something.

        The same applies to music. In the US they have a service called Pandora. A digital music distribution “radio” station, paid for by advertising and directly supporting artists of every genre. I would pay for a service like that here in the UK. Most music my partner listens to is on YouTube, provided by the rights holders free of charge to generate advertising revenue. These are the things which need to be looked into, not undemocratic disconnection of users and websites blocked by panels of “experts” appointed by the government and possibly influenced by the interested party.

      • kerrymccarthy  On February 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm

        I don’t really see that the three things proposed in the previous blogpost – ie stopping search engines linking to illegal sites (ie sites with no legitimate content), stopping credit card companies facilitating them and stopping reputable companies advertising on them would erode anyone’s rights, except the “right” of Mr Megaupload to become filthy rich. Surely such measures are a better approach than disconnecting individual web users because they have uploaded illegal content?

      • Jonneh  On February 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm

        On the surface I agree, but that really isn’t what we’re looking at here is it? I mean, the DEAct already proposes disconnecting users the same as it already alludes to a non-judicial process for web blocking. That has already been passed into law, and had no debate and no chance for the public to campaign against it.

        I don’t see the point in debating the lighter and more reasonable controls while the UK equivalent of SOPA has already been passed. Until we wake up and realise that the entire modern internet world is against legislation like this, we are just going to be a joke. In 10 or 20 years when the kids of today are the voters of tomorrow, we’re going to find ourselves in the stupid position of having to admit we’ve been on the wrong side of the debate for quite some time.

        More to the point, will the MPAA be ok with your reduced controls? I doubt it.

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