Digital Economy Bill [ Lords]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 7:08 pm on 6th April 2010.

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Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 7:08 pm, 6th April 2010

I congratulate Mr. Simon on making such a fine final speech, and I am sure the force will be with him as he goes off to fight the mayoralty in Birmingham. He will probably go down in the record books as the last Labour creative industries Minister, given that he was not subsequently replaced in that post. I also refer to my entry in the Register of Members' Financial Interests.

I want to take you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on a perfect Saturday afternoon shopping trip. You have had a fantastic fix of retail therapy and you cannot wait to try out all the new goods you have legitimately bought. Then you come across your local record store and you cannot believe what you see, because hanging in the window is a sign saying, "Everything inside absolutely free." Being the music fan that I know you are, Mr, Deputy Speaker, you are in there like a shot, helping yourself to the top 10 albums. You also take the opportunity to fill some of the gaps in your back-catalogue of favourite artists. You might even think about acquiring the fantastic new album by MP4, the world's only, and best, Parliamentary rock band. In another aisle in the shop there are all the blockbuster releases from the cinema, and you help yourself to them, too, and on the way out there is a shelf with items by the cream of the UK's games industry, and you take a couple of them as well. As you leave, the very nice young man behind the counter says, "Come back any time, sir, you know we're open all hours." That would be patently absurd and ridiculous, but that is what happens online every second of every day. Goods, digital services, films, computer games and music are simply given away for nothing-fantastic works of art, reduced to commodities and products of no value at all.

Nobody refers to such activity as giving things away, or, heaven forbid, as stealing-let us not even go there! It is simply sharing, or peer-to-peer file sharing, to give it its proper name. You might be thinking, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this is a fantastic idea, and asking why hon. Members are not rushing down to their manufacturing sector or retail outlets to demand that their goods should be shared, too. If it is good enough for the online world, surely it is good enough for these more tangible products-for the electronic goods and furniture that these small businesses make. No, that would be even more ridiculous, because it would ruin any notion of a functional, rational economy.

It seems that it is all right for that to happen online and what we are doing has ruined any notion of a functioning, rational digital economy. If we are serious about trying to grow our digital economy and about ensuring that we have the best creative economy in the world, we must ensure that artists, writers and creators are rewarded for the work that they do. If we do not, we will go nowhere.

One group of people is totally overlooked in this debate. It is not the powerful and influential internet service providers, nor the rights holders, nor, bless them, the consumers, but the artist-the creator, the designer, the inventor. They seem to be totally ignored and forgotten about in this debate. There is no digital economy without the content and no creative industry without the creator-they should be at the heart of all our consideration about the digital economy and the creative industries. It is their imagination that fires it. They must be rewarded for the works that they produce.

So, how does this Bill intend to address that problem? I have seen the hyperbole given by the ISPs and their digital rights friends. I have seen the lightsabers brought out by Mr. Watson and his merry bunch of friends. It is almost impossible to reconcile what they are saying with what has been proposed. If people were to listen to them, they would think that the Government were going to a big switch and turning the internet off-Armageddon online. I have read clauses 5 to 17, and all they say is that people will get a letter-a notification-that will ask them, ever so politely, to stop what they have been doing. It will just say, "Stop. What you are doing is illegal. Please don't do it anymore."

If they ignore that letter, a second letter will come through. It will perhaps be a little sterner. It will probably outline some of the damage that their illegal activity is doing, tell them that there are alternative sites that they might use and say that they are taking products for nothing.

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