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 am getting nods from the Secretary of State, so I am glad that I have got that right.

The Bill could and should be a vehicle to boost the UK’s creative industries and the legal economy, and reduce the proliferation of illegal content online. I would like the Government to consider adding two things to the Bill. First, I ask the Secretary of State to consider making online providers who make music available on their sites legally liable to ensure that that music is legally available. This would mean that they would need either to obtain relevant licences or take active steps to prevent infringement, and could not take any advantage of the safe harbours provision in the e-commerce directive, which was written many years ago and no longer covers what we need today.

Secondly, I would like the Secretary of State to consider imposing a code of practice between online intermediaries and those who hold the rights to music in order to deal with piracy if voluntary talks fail. As my hon. Friend Chris Bryant said, this is not just about music, and he mentioned films. My hon. Friend Chi Onwurah referred to e-books. There are many art forms to which this could apply. I am taking music as an example, but it could do the lot.

Estimating the loss to the legal trade in music through piracy is difficult, but using data from Ofcom, there is evidence to suggest that the losses could be anything between £150 million and £300 million a year. Whatever the true scale of the figure, this is a significant loss to the UK economy, to music producers, and above all to the musicians and the artists who make the music.

Online copyright infringement is as serious as physical, off-line copyright infringement, as others have said in relation to online pornography or other aspects of the internet and the digital economy. It is as serious as that. One would not expect to walk into a shop and remove a CD without paying, walk into a club or a local live venue and not pay your door fee, or walk into an orchestral concert without a ticket. The two things are exactly the same.

I have often heard it said that the online world is impossible to regulate—that it is a sort of modern-day wild west. Well, as anyone who loves western movies as much as I do knows, the wild west was eventually tamed—sort of. The good guys do eventually win, usually, and the bad guys usually get taken out—they do in Morricone films, anyway. [Interruption.] Yes, with great music. It is not always the sheriff who is successful in asserting good over evil, and in the online world it does not necessarily have to be the law that intervenes and pursues prosecutions to make it work. Nevertheless, we do need that regulation. Music lovers themselves want to make sure their loved bands and artists are paid properly, and they know that they can be if they pay through legal download sites or through ad content. Musicians and the industry have done well out of an increase in digital music, some of it free to download or available on a subscription service.