Why controlling internet piracy is only part of the script for the success of our creative industries


The House of Lords debated internet piracy on Thursday led by the theatrical peer, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber , who performed with a degree of artistic licence to make important points.  His speech,  covered in the media, made important points but it  reflects neither the whole picture nor the debate in the Chamber.(Hansard report here)  And the ‘alarming’ figures he quoted about loss of revenues and jobs need to be seen in a wider context.

The Lords were largely discussing the Digital Britain report and the importance of establishing a digital rights agency – to protect creative content and intellectual property and this is surely an essential element to support the UK’s success in the creative industries.

Sir Andrew is concerned to protect artists and producers of music and films published and created before digtial technology revolutionised everything. He is  quoted: 

The question that occurs to me is whether in ten years’ time Britain will be a place from which, say, the Beatles could have emerged? Will Britain be a fertile environment for all creative talent? Will Britain be a place where music, TV, film, games and publishing companies are sufficiently healthy to invest in British creative talent and take it to the rest of the world?

“No, not when there are no longer shops selling physical products and when the internet has become a sort of Somalia of unregulated theft and piracy   …..

A digital rights agency is required to protect our creative content.

But our creative content, creative business models and creative experiences have changed because of the internet.

New business models are being invented which are collaborative and commercial – notably Spotify where we can listen to music for free and artists still get paid.

Sir Andrew also declared that  “Britain’s creative industries are not content providers for broadband.”

 Indeed they are not.  The convergence of content and technology has created the right conditions for the UK’s, particularly Scotland’s, talented games companies to become one of the highest growth areas of the creative economy.  At the end of 2008, the sales of games overtook music and DVDs for the first time.    Video games are projected to grow at a rate of 10.3%pa compared to 6.6% for all media and entertainment markets (NESTA)

So, while Sir Andrew quotes losses of £1.2bn and 30,ooo jobs in film and music because of piracy (or free), this needs to be seen in the context of the forecasted 9% growth in  UK Gross Value Added (GVA) over the next five years,estimated by NESTA at £85bn and 185,000 new jobs .

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