Tuesday, June 09, 2009

TUC: let's get militant about file sharing and jobs

Today's Daily Telegraph has an article by Brendan Barber, the General Secretary of the TUC. He writes, under the in no way melodramatic headline One week to save the creative industries:
There is no doubt amongst members of our trade unions – as well as the rights-holders who are vocal on this issue – that file-sharing poses a serious but avoidable threat. What is hard to quantify is the number of productions that could have been made but never will be. The films never produced, tracks never recorded, DVDs never made available all cost jobs, whether it’s on the film set or in the high street store. A report released recently highlighted that 800,000 jobs across the economy depend on the creative industries and the production of new output.

Internet service providers hold the key to creating the change necessary to tackle illegal file-sharing. The ISPs have the direct relationship with the file-sharer and all the evidence suggests that, where a system is put in place for dealing with offenders, rates of piracy will fall dramatically. For the vast majority, simply drawing attention to the harm of their actions would be sufficient to correct behaviours but further graduated action should be taken against those who continue to file-share illegally - including limitation of internet access.

Clearly, informing the public about the impact of piracy would be effective. But the rate at which jobs and conditions are being damaged brings an urgent call to the ISPs to play the right role. Just as they need new television, film and music to fuel engagement with the internet, so they should live up to their responsibility to those who work in the production of the content.

What is so interesting - and there's not much here that is, other than a call to make the ISPs "policemen", which having sat in a briefing at lawyers, Clifford Chance, to the ISPA, is going to be a fiercely argued shift in agency that will make the law firms a very large profit and is far from happening - are the assumptions and absences here. How many films "could have been made but never will" is a question that has been asked of the British film industry since the birth of cinema. Why isn't Brighton Hollywood, is an equally relevant question.

Barber doesn't - as with so many of these type of pieces - define what is file-sharing. Has he heard about "darknet" sharing of (offline) hard drives? Does he know about RapidShare? Or about the Creative Commons? The thriving new business models of all types of creative content? Does he remember the new technology and newspapers debates of the 1980s? Does he know that education hasn't worked in these areas, and that we live digitally in an era of legal "free things"? Details, not polemic, are what we need: and forward thinking.

The Internet - and its ramifications - is not going away.

When Barber writes: "Clearly, informing the public about the impact of piracy would be effective." What does he mean? The TUC deserves much better than this: it deserves some detail, some understanding of the digital, and some acknowledgment of the power of the consumer.

Lazy. Almost Appleyard.

PS. From Peter Bazalgette.
Peter Bazalgette, the entrepreneur behind Big Brother, said: "The government decided a year ago that they would replace lost revenue from financial services by [turning to] the creative industries. The irony is that the faster the broadband, the more people will download content illegally."

No comments: