UK Copyright Industries Suddenly Become Fans Of Evidence-Based Policy Making
from the pot,-kettle,-black dept
Building on the solid work of the Hargreaves Report on copyright, the UK government took a surprisingly sensible attitude in its proposed implementation of most of Hargreaves’ suggestions. The consultation period for those proposals ends shortly, and the panic among the copyright industries that the UK government might actually make copyright slightly less biased in their favor is evident. Here’s a Daily Telegraph piece where they try to undermine the economic rationale behind the moves, professing scepticism about UK government claims that modernizing copyright will add billions to the UK economy:
UK Music, the music industry body, said the growth projection was “based upon underlying assumptions and extrapolations that are facile and deeply flawed”.
Its chief executive, Jo Dipple, called on the Government to “re-examine the evidence”.
“Re-examine the evidence” is precisely what the Hargreaves team did when it explored to what extent digital piracy was causing harm to the copyright industries. Here’s what it found:
The Review team has examined numerous studies, including those in the table above, and a supporting paper looks at the methodological strengths and weaknesses of this work. With the exception of the Industry Canada study, we have either not been able to examine the methodology of the studies or, where we have, we have discovered problems with the methodology. Consequently, we have not found either a figure for the prevalence and impact of piracy worldwide or for the UK in which we can place our confidence.
In other words, bar one report, there was no reliable evidence, despite the fact that the copyright industries have been claiming the contrary for years, and using those claims to push for harsher laws against online copyright infringement.
A typical case is the TERA report that came out in March 2010. As I have shown elsewhere, its headline result that piracy in the EU was likely to cause losses of 1.2 million jobs and 240 billion euros ($325 billion) by 2015 was based almost entirely on figures supplied by the recording industry — in other words, of no value as independent evidence. And yet its “assumptions and extrapolations” were widely used in the debate running up to the vote in April 2010 that saw the passing of the UK’s Digital Economy Act.
Also quoted in The Telegraph piece is Pete Wishart, an MP and a musician chiefly associated with the folk-rock band Runrig. Commenting on the UK government’s projections, he said:
“How the Government has got away with such bonkers figures is beyond me.”
The real issue is how the copyright industries got away with its bonkers figures, and for so long. Let’s hope their new-found love for evidence-based policy making doesn’t vanish when the facts turn out to be very different.