The UK is one of the most aggressive defenders of intellectual property, and in part thanks to its relentless campaign to block ‘pirate sites’, now has arguably the most censored internet access in the (so called) free world.
The justification for this draconian attitude towards copyright infringement is the claim that piracy damages the entertainment industry, as immoral downloaders ‘steal’ what they want, to the artists’ cost.
Heavily lobbied for by the movie and music industries, this view has become orthodoxy among the political elite, and has shaped government policy accordingly. As an industry-backed report found in 2010 that,
‘A quarter of a million British jobs in the music, film, TV, software and other creative industries could be lost over the next five years if online piracy continues at its current rate, according to a study backed by European unions and the TUC.
Across the EU, as many as 1.2 million jobs are in jeopardy as piracy looks set to strip more than €240bn (£218bn) in revenues from the creative industries by 2015, unless regulators can stem the flow.’
So how then does this orthodoxy, which is used to justify wildly disproportionate actions by the UK police and government, square with news that the ‘British music industry added £3.8bn to the UK economy in 2013’?
‘The British music industry contributed £3.8bn to the UK economy in 2013, according to an annual trade report. With the sector seeing a 9% growth over the year before, lobbyists called for a stronger national copyright framework.
The increase in overall music receipts can be traced to individual revenues by musicians, singers, composers, songwriters and lyricists, which rose more than 6% to £1.7bn, and live music sales, which rose almost 20% to £789m, according to trade body UK Music’s annual Measuring Music report. There were also increases in publishing and studio revenues, and a massive boom in UK music exports – up 57% to £2.2bn.’
Culture minister Sajid Javid, responding to these figures, called the music sector one of the UK’s ‘biggest success stories.’
So despite copyright piracy, the music industry is booming, and given that repeated studies show pirates actually buy more music than legal downloaders, it is very possible piracy is contributing to this boom!
We do not, however, expect mere details like evidence to stop the entertainment industry, politicians, or the police continuing their bull-headed attack on copyright infringement anytime soon…