Digital Economy Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:08 pm on 13th September 2016.

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Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 3:08 pm, 13th September 2016

I rise to speak about part 4 of the Bill and in support of musicians, singers, composers and others in the music industry who create and perform music for our pleasure. In the context of the Bill, that means asking the Government to use this opportunity to strengthen existing measures to ensure that artists are properly remunerated for their work online, which they frequently are not.

First, however, I must add that the measures in part 3, in relation to pornography, are a welcome step, but they are nowhere near enough, as other hon. Members have said. I will not discuss these measures at length, and I just want to add my support to the things that Mrs Miller, my hon. Friend Sarah Champion and others said about the deficiencies of the Bill and about aspects of online abuse. Before I was a Member of Parliament, I worked with men who had abused their partners, and I can provide lists of examples of their use of the internet to track, harass, shame, bully, threaten and abuse their ex-partners. I can also say that many of them, unfortunately, learned their ideas about sexual behaviour from pornography—frequently, violent pornography. The Government have an opportunity that they can grasp. It is not easy—I am not saying that there are simple solutions—but I really add my voice to those of other hon. Members, and I know that the Secretary of State, with her track record on tackling violence against women and girls, will be open to listening to our suggestions.

I must declare my musical interests. I was once a professional musician and a member of the Musicians’ Union, which therefore did make a donation—declared properly in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—to my campaign last year. I am married to a professional musician. Many of my friends and family are also musicians. Having declared my interests, I have to say that I am speaking today about the rights of workers, who include many in my own constituency, to be properly paid for their music, and to support the huge contribution the music industry makes to our economy. I ask the Government to improve on what is currently in the Bill and to do everything they can to stop illegal downloading and piracy.

We all have music in our lives. Special memories always have a specific song playing in the background. Special occasions include a well-chosen piece of music. As I walked to the bus this morning, I had a tune in my head. Whether we love opera or indie bands or can remember all the tunes from “Singin’ in the Rain”—I can—music is a huge part of our lives. The previous Labour Government invested hugely in the arts in a range of ways, and the arts have given a great return on investment. For that to continue, musicians and the creative industry, and every part of the supply chain, have to be properly, fairly and legally remunerated for what they create, whether it is online, in live performances, or in sales of physical recordings such as CDs. This Bill provides a great opportunity for the Government to help to make sure that this happens online. Yet, unfortunately, the content of part 4 leaves so much that could still be done. I hope that we will discuss that in Committee.

I am pleased that clause 26 amends the current legislation on copyright to bring online criminal penalties for copyright infringement in line with off-line penalties, with a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. This will target anyone who infringes copyright in order to make a commercial gain. However, I wish to stress to hon. Members and to members of the public that this is not to catch out people who download music and unwittingly download or stream something illegal. I want to make that clear in adding my support to this measure. As far as I understand it, it targets the criminals who make money from distributing music to which they do not have the rights.