Mandelson Overturns Digital Britain

The government have the unenviable task of attempting to please everyone, however yesterday they appear to have failed spectacularly, and leading the way was Lord Mandelson. Yesterday he overturned the recommendations in the Digital Britain report – a year of consultations and debates down the drain – and stated simply that we need to move fast to stop filesharing. Moving fast means that rather than mess around with silly things like, courts, trials and rights we simply disconnect anyone accused of filesharing.

Maybe he was in a go getting mood after his holiday with David Geffen, record company billionaire. I know spending time out on a yacht with billionaires gets me back in the zone. Mandelson has denied that his coming back from his hols’ with a record executive, clutching a declaration of  war against piracy is linked… because if it were the case then surely he’d admit it. Apparently his change of stance is based on an intensive lobbying campaign from influential figures in the media industry… which is COMPLETELY different from spending time with ‘influential-figure-in-the-media-industry-David-Geffen’, so I’m cool with that.

As not all of us have luxury yachts and lobbying groups to make Mandelson do what we want, those who would prefer something resembling democratic process will have to make do with an opposition coalition formed on self interest.

Our strongest force is the ISPs who will protect consumers because it’s financially better for them to do so. If these laws come in they will have to spend a great deal on monitoring us (the amount of detail required to ascertain if data packets are copyrighted data packets is enormous), more on processing any claims, and will then have to deal with cutting off their own customers. I only have a GCSE in business studies but even that tells me that having customers is better than not having customers.

Another perhaps powerful opposition is the Tories and LibDems who have jumped on this as another sign of incompetent Labour, running with it as a mud clod for the general election; whether you like them or not they’ll also be useful.

Last but certainly not least we also have those working slightly more altruistically, primarily in consumer rights groups, the Pirate Party UK (PPUK) and The Open Rights Group, all of whom are pretty much foaming at the mouth right now (in politics that’s good). For the PPUK this has been a double edged sword as although foaming is occurring, they’re also picking up more members as angry citizens are given a reason to join (in the interest of disclosure: myself included).

Hopefully if there’s opposition the implementation will be delayed, if it’s delayed it’ll probably be stuck on the backburner till the next General Election and then all opinion polls suggest these guys will be out. Problem is Mandelson knows this is the case and the media industry do as well, that’s why the original Digital Britain report wasn’t fast enough for them and they’ve sent Mandy back with a new brief, ‘do it fast’.


Torrent Freak have – as always – a thorough piece on this story… and they mention me!

Meanwhile, as one commenter indicates in a comment on the Digital Britain site, more people will be joining the UK Pirate Party,

Why Did the World Economy Fail?…

… because our financial institutions are run by people that think the musings of a 15 year old work experience kid constitutes groundbreaking demographic research.

A research note written by a 15-year-old Morgan Stanley intern that described his friends’ media habits has generated a flurry of interest from media executives and investors.

The US investment bank’s European media analysts asked Matthew Robson, an intern from a London school, to write a report on teenagers’ likes and dislikes, which made the Financial Times’ front page today.

His report, that dismissed Twitter and described online advertising as pointless, proved to be “one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen – so we published it”, said Edward Hill-Wood, executive director of Morgan Stanley’s European media team.

Twitter is not for teens, Morgan Stanley told by 15-year-old expert

“It has never, ever been easier to break the law”

As I continue my perusal of the SABIP report on Digital Consumers in the Online AgeI’m finding yet more things that get my goat. The target of this particular moment’s focus is one of their ‘Key Findings’ titled “It has never, ever been easier to break the law” on page 12.

When I saw this I thought ‘Yes! Something in this report that I agree with’, however this joy was short lived. The report’s take on this statement is that it is relatively easy to get into file-sharing, with the media constantly telling us how to find the sites, Google providing easy information when searching for ‘free music’ (that evil Google) and peer-pressure in social networks… apparently Pirate Bay is the new crafty cigarette.

Yet when I saw this initial statement my mind turned to ‘Infringement Nation by John Tehranian. This wonderful article from The University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law documents a day in the life of the average Law Professor and how his daily practice infringes copyright left right and centre.

By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John’s activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, barring last minute salvation from the notoriously ambiguous fair use defense, he would be liable for a mind-boggling$4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file-sharing.

(Tehranian, 2007:547)

If we tallied up the acts of copyright infringement that occurred outside of P2P systems I’m sure they would be much more substantial. I agree that it has never been easier to break the law, but perhaps that is because of the law, not because of the individual.

“These Figures are Staggering”

I‘ve just had a quick look through the SABIP report on Digital Consumers in the Online Age’ which has been featured over on the BBC.

Here’s an extract I’d like you to read…

On one peer-to-peer network we found that at midday on a weekday there were 1.3 million users, sharing content. If each “peer” from this network (not the largest) downloaded one file per day the resulting number of downloads (music, film, television, e-books, software and games were all available) would be 473 million items per year. If the figure for each individual is closer to five or more items per day, the lowest estimate of downloaded material (remembering that the entire season of the Fox television series “24”, or the “complete” works of the rock group Led Zeppelin can be one file) is just under 2.4 billion files. And if the average value of each file is £5 – that is a rough low average of the price of a DVD or CD, rather than the higher prices of software or E-books – we have the online members of one file sharing network consuming approximately £12 billion in content annually – for free. These figures are staggering. (SABIP, 2009:6)

Dear me, don’t strain yourself SABIP! The accuracy of those figures are indeed astounding, truly the quantitative method for discerning the empirical data knocks me to the floor.

The brilliance of this work has also been taken up by Zeropaid who also feel the passage is worthy of such joyous quoting. These are the figures quoted by the BBC and I imagine the ones that will stick in the minds of our beloved ordained policy makers. This of course is not a problem at all as the report clearly demonstrates the ability to discern absolute truth with their statistical prowess.

I bow down to your greatness SABIP, these figures are staggering.



The report also cites Zentner’s 2006 research stating that those who file-share are 30% less likely to purchase music. You may find that report difficult to locate as SABIP failed to include a reference in their bibliography (truly staggering).

[The article is called ‘Measuring the Effect of File Sharing on Music Purchases’, by Zentner, A. (2006) Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 49, No. 1, University of Chicago. If you have access to such things it can be picked up here.]

Moving on: Indeed Zentner did say that file-sharing reduces the likelihood of purchasing music by 30% (see page 87). However he also said…

The database does not contain information on quantities of music purchased or on intensities of music downloads to calculate what music sales would have been in the absence of music downloading. (Zentner, 2006: 85)

Zentner’s analysis is based on the assumption that if file-sharing did not exist, people would buy all the music that they downloaded.

The percentage of people who bought music is much larger among the group who regularly download MP3 files (55.8 percent) than among those who do not (37.7 percent), which suggests that MP3 downloaders have a strong taste for music.(Zentner, 2006: 73)

…and are essentially the music industry’s customer base.

But hey, even if Zentner’s work is a statistical piece that shows the music industry is being murdered by file-sharers, there are still those pesky other pieces of research that aren’t three years old saying quite the opposite.

Consumer Culture in Times of Crisis,” conducted by the BI Norwegian School of Management, the largest business school in Norway, and the second largest in all of Europe, concluded that file-sharers actually buy 10 times as much music as they download for free.The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music: A Study For Industry Canada,” a study commissioned by Industry Canada, a ministry of the Canadian federal government, found that for every album downloaded illegally legal CD purchases increased by 0.44, or by about half an album.

Props to
Zeropaid again.