Letter and response

A group of people from the film industry wrote to The Times:

Sir, We are a group of UK film and TV producers, directors and writers who have made some of the UK’s most innovative and distinctive moving pictures and television programming. Our output entertains millions of people, employs tens of thousands in the UK’s creative sector, attracts foreign direct investment, wins awards and creates billions in revenue.

We are very concerned that the successes of the creative industries in the UK are being undermined by the illegal online file-sharing of film and TV content. At a time when so many jobs are being lost in the wider economy, it is especially important that this issue be taken seriously by the Government and that it devotes the resources necessary to enforce the law.

In 2007, an estimated 98 million illegal downloads and streams of films took place in the UK, while it is believed that more than six million people illegally file-share regularly. In relation to illegal downloads of TV programmes, the UK is the world leader, with up to 25 per cent of all online TV piracy taking place in the UK. Popular shows are downloaded illegally hundreds of thousands of times per episode.

We are asking the Government to show its support by ensuring that internet service providers play their part in tackling this huge problem.

The creative economy — of which film and television is part — comprises 7 per cent of the total economy, and is growing faster than any other sector. This is partly due to the ability of film and TV producers and their sponsors to continue contributing to the economy, creating jobs, generating tax revenue, and securing a return on the investments they make — all of which is now threatened by the widespread availability of illegal, free content.

Internet service providers have the ability to change the behaviour of those customers who illegally distribute content online. They have the power to make significant change and to prevent their infrastructure from being used on a wholesale scale for illegal activity. If they are not prepared to act responsibly, they should be compelled to do so.

David Gerard responded:

Sir, We are a group of UK film and TV producers, directors and writers. We are concerned that the successes of the creative industries in the UK are being undermined by the illegal online file-sharing of film and TV.

We are asking the Government to show its support by ensuring that internet service providers play their part in tackling this huge problem by giving us money. Lots of money. Just keep piling it in, we’ll tell you when it’s enough.

In 2007, up to (well, it could be) 25 per cent of all online TV piracy took place in the UK. Popular shows are downloaded illegally hundreds of thousands of times per episode, and some of them might even be ours rather than something American made with an actual budget.

It is true that in 2008, UK commercial TV broadcasters enjoyed the highest viewing figures in five years, that total TV viewing was up 10% year-on-year, and the valuable yet hard-to-reach 16 to 24-year-old demographic (the typical file-sharer) watched 4.9% more commercial TV and saw 12% more ads. But it’s the principle of the thing: someone is getting money from something that touches something one of us once touched, therefore the money belongs to us. This is the style of corporate thinking that brought Britain its great economic gains from 1997 to 2007, after all.At a time when so many jobs are being lost in the wider economy, it is especially important that our gravy train be maintained.

Internet service providers have the ability to change the behaviour of those customers who illegally distribute content online. They have the power to make significant change and to prevent their infrastructure from being used on a wholesale scale for illegal activity. They have the power to stop people looking at the cover of Virgin Killer. They have a secret magic wand that will fix everything wrong with the media industry’s income streams and they are refusing, with malice aforethought, to use it. If they are not prepared to give us all the free money we ask for and a bit more besides, they should be compelled to do so.

I think that just about sums it up. The film industry is wrong, for reasons I’ve elaborated elsewhere but will repeat here:

1. digital information is intrinsically easy to copy, particularly with the Internet which is (and was designed to be) the world’s biggest and most effective copying machine

2. the only way way to stop unauthorised copying would be to shut down the Internet and ban modern computers

3. which the government won’t do, because it would destroy the economy

4. therefore content creators will either have to get a new business model, or they will go out of business

This entry was posted in Britain, censorship, digital rights, filesharing, MPAA, politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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