Miranda Dobson

Innovation, not legislation for creative industries

Creative industries need to innovate to overcome copyright issues, it was argued in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The Commons Select Committee for culture, media and sport gathered to discuss support for the sector, and quizzed witnesses Jeremy Silver, chair of data platform company Semetric Ltd, Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, and Peter Bradwell, campaigner for Open Rights Group.

Issues were raised over companies’ intellectual property (IP) falling into the wrong hands, being copied, and creators’ rights not being protected.

The witnesses agreed that rapid changes in technology have made it nearly impossible to prevent online copying in recent years, and it was suggested that the way around this issue was to innovate along with the technology.

Mr Silver, who has acted as lead specialist on creative industries for the Technology Strategy Board, said: “All of the discussions we’ve had over the last 10 years is how we control the illegal copying.

“The difficulty is, the internet […] is a living breathing copying machine. Every move and every gesture makes copies of things.”

The committee proposed a culture change in the creative industry, rather than stricter anti-copying legislation, although the witnesses did not suggest companies should abandon attempts to protect themselves from illegal IP copying.

Mr Silver raised the point that no legislation could effectively protect copyrighted material online, which is why creators must find ways to make money despite illegal copying being prevalent.

He said: “I would argue the only way to prevent something from being copied, is to prevent it from being available at all. And so there is a fundamental at the root of our legislation which is unenforceable.

“I’ve never come across a politician who had the appetite to grasp a nettle as thorny as that one.

He added: “I do accept reluctantly that we’re unlikely to see real political reform, and I do think that’s what’s needed.”

Jim Killock, director of digital rights lobbyist, Open Rights Group, added that perceptions of copyright are evolving, and agreed that this change must be met with innovation in the creative sector.

He said: “Consumer perceptions of what copyright is […] have also changed, as have business perceptions.

“It isn’t just the case that consumers have gained more rights, […] in legal terms they are often able to do less.”

Mr Silver added: “We also do have to look at the balance of whether enforcement of copyrights, particularly at consumer level, has been the right approach.

“I think in the end we have to accept that consumer behaviour is what it is, we can influence it up to a point, but at some point we have to acknowledge that it’s there, […] people do what they do because the technology enables it.

“It may turn out that encouraging innovation and encouraging new ways of doing things […] is going to be a more effective contribution to the economy than spending a very large amount of time and money trying to close things down, which are really a game of what I call “Whack a Mole”, you know, you hit it down in one place and it pops somewhere else.”

“In the end what this is all about is economic growth. What we want is to find opportunities for people who are creative to make a living out of it, and to be able to grow the economy based on that.”

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