Friday, 19 March 2010

A timely piece of propaganda from the music industry

Yesterday morning, feeling sickened by the current developments surrounding the Digital Economy Bill, I picked up my laptop to read the news and was confronted by yet another report which sought to offer some definitive conclusions about the impact of copyright infringement. The report in question, "Building A Digital Economy: The Importance of Saving Jobs in the EU's Creative Industries", seemed perfectly timed to both support the ideological machinations behind the curent Digital Economy Bill and undermine the mounting public resistance to the Bill. The fact that the phrase 'Digital Economy' features in the title is surely a coincidence, no?

What do you think this perfectly-timed report suggested? You guessed it - it painted a picture of unmitigated disaster for the creative industries. It suggests that within 5 years the total number of lost jobs in Europe could reach 1.2 million and that the lost revenue for the industry may exceed €240 billion in the same period. As you might expect, this report was welcomed by anti-piracy outfits including the BPI and IFPI who will surely use it in their political lobbying efforts, as it matches their projected fears.

As Herman and Chomsky might put it, this was a perfect example of 'flak' - an attempt to diffuse any of the pressure being directed towards the Digital Economy Bill by groups like OurKingdom, TalkTalk, the ORG and 38degrees. Thank goodness that someone has took the time to read the report and point out the flaws and suppositions inherent within the report. Ernesto over at TorrentFreak has highlighted a few of the major problems with the report:
- The report suggests that there’s a direct correlation between Internet traffic growth and lost jobs. That is, the more traffic that is generated on the Internet, the more money will be lost. This correlation is 1 according to the report, which assumes that all growth in Internet traffic will increase piracy at the same rate.
- The report makes another bogus assumption by stating that more traffic will mean more piracy and thus more lost revenue. It does not account for the fact that people might consume higher quality files which are greater in file-size. All projections are based on bandwidth and not the number of pirated goods.

- The report cites some academic literature which suggests that piracy leads to a decrease in sales. Studies that reported the opposite or a null-effect were carefully left out. This bias defines the entire outcome of the report. If they used studies that found a positive effect they would have found that piracy would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the years to come.

- The report uses fixed substitution rates. They assume that 10 downloaded albums results in one lost sale and this figure is not adjusted for the projected increase in piracy. One would think that the public’s budget for entertainment is limited and that the substitution rate would go down as piracy goes up
These are a few of the extracts - for more info read the original article here. You can also read the UK Pirate Party's response here, which includes some interesting material from the Terra Firma group who now own EMI.

Perhaps it's not surprising that such a report, originating from the aptly-titled BASCAP (Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy), would be timed to coincide with the call for the general public to write to their MPs, asking them to prevent the passing of extreme Internet laws that can result in web censorship if it protects the interests of corporate power.

Let's not forget that the corporate pressure has already resulted in the BPI (the UK recording industry's lobbying arm) having their way with the Liberal Democrats peer, Lord Razzall, with regards to amendment 120A. This amendment was copied almost word-for-word from a lobbying paper prepared by the BPI, and has been widely criticised as giving copyright holders too much power to close down sites on limited evidence. In a column for guardian.co.uk, activist and author Cory Doctorow has tried to make some sense of the subsequent Liberal Democrat u-turn over this issue. He also points to the origins of the leaked memo from the BPI (dated 8th of January) which later became Lord Clement-Jones's 3rd of March amendment.

Clearly, there has been an orchestrated attempt by the recording industry to put their case forward at the expense of truth and also at the potential expense of the British public's rights. Using distorted and one-sided economic projections as fact helps maintain the momentum in the favour of the recording industry whilst attempting to write into law some of the most oppressive web censorship that the UK has seen. The real concern is with whether or not many people or news publishers actually took the time to read the original report before paraphrasing it's claims. The issue around the veracity of data is crucial here - if it gets passed unchecked then the damage is already done. Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, sums up my feelings on the matter:
“I am fed up of hearing corporate propaganda being deployed in order to justify intrusions on our rights to freedom of speech, privacy and to a fair trial”
If this is democracy, I'm out.

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