Two Contradictory Paths In The UK When It Comes To Copyright Issues

from the which-one-is-more-reasonable dept

It's been a bit hard to understand what's been going on in the UK concerning copyright reform when we keep hearing two very contradictory messages. On one side, there's the ridiculous Digital Economy Act, which was proposed by the unelected, debated by the ignorant and voted on by the absent in order to put in place much stricter copyright laws, including putting much of the burden on online service providers. That process is continuing to expand with plans to make the censorship part of the bill even clearer. Those behind the law, when pressed, admitted that they had absolutely no evidence to support the claimed need for this law.

And yet, while all of this was happening, there was also the Hargreaves Report, which was a very reasonable look at copyright issues, which listed out a bunch of pretty tame recommendations (so tame that creating a "fair use" policy was seen as too controversial). Of course, it also was pretty clear that the UK should stop its faith-based copyright regulating, and no more changes should be made to the laws without solid economic evidence.

So guess which process is getting attacked? You guessed it. The latter process, as Member of Parliament (MP) Peter Wishart apparently went on the attack against the Hargreaves report and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) that commissioned it. Peter Bradwell, over at the Open Rights Group, hits back by noting that it's pretty ridiculous to question the IPO while ignoring everything going on with the Digital Economy Act, which came out of a different part of the goverment: the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Bradwell's article breaks down the differences here:

So to caricature the two departments: one is asking for evidence and consulting widely and openly. One has spent the past few years consulting narrowly, opaquely, and with no evidence or analysis to speak of.

The IPO come under fire in Peter Wishart's speech for being sloppy with evidence and ignoring the creative industries. DCMS' proposals are to be 'got on with'. He calls the IPO 'a bureaucratic front to devalue the people whom it is supposed to support' which the Government must 'get to grips with'. 

That is slightly strange. The issue of policy making for copyright involves managing a complex mix of evidence, principle and opinion. Disagreement, and the management and channeling of that disagreement in the formulation of policy, are two separate things. Whatever position one takes on the substance of this debate about IP, there is a right way and a wrong way to make public policy.  It has to be democratically legitimate, open, transparent and involve proper debate. Over the past 12 months, the IPO has beaten DCMS hands down on that metric. 

Yeah, but being open, transparent and relying on actual evidence isn't just hard work -- the big content gatekeepers don't like it when that happens. And we have to support them at all costs, apparently...
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: blocking, censorship, copyright, dcms, hargreaves, ipo, reform

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Duke (profile), 15 Feb 2012 @ 1:48am

    Quite straightforward

    It's quite straightforward really, we have a coalition government. Each Party controls one of the relevant departments, and they're fighting over control of these things.

    On one side you have the Conservatives who, along with Labour (in power when the DEA was passed) were very heavily lobbied over this sort of thing (lots of private meetings, tickets to events, that kind of stuff).

    On the other side, you have the Lib Dems, who are answerable to their members on policy grounds, and have a few vocal MPs who understand the Internet (and evidence). They were a minor force during the DEA debate, so seem to have been mostly ignored re lobbying.

    At the moment, the Conservatives control DCMS (the Department of Culture, Media and Support) which is under Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey (the latter has been running the closed-door meetings on web-blocking), which has been pushing for a larger clampdown on copyright (as you might expect from a "Media" department; i.e. answerable to the big media giants). Then the Lib Dems control DBIS (the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills) - under Vince Cable (who announced the plans to shelve the web-blocking parts of the DEA) - which has the policy brief for the DEA, runs the IPO and which is answerable to businesses, and cares about innovation etc.

    It's not all that hard to see why there might be conflict here...

    That said, the IPO isn't completely unbiased; one of their recent reports contained a wrongly-applied, inaccurately-copied, wrongly-cited (and with an obvious typo) statistic for losses, from a copyright industry (I think Hollywood) source, based on a paper, quoting the draft results of a survey, noting that it was changed in the final version, which was never published. It's quite impressive that they managed to get nearly every step of that wrong.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.