...want the government to enforce scarcity on the Internet where it simply can’t be enforced.
It’s good to read Lord Mandelson saying:
The age of flogging a CD in HMV for £20 is well and truly over
And his stated aims sound entirely reasonable:
Provide customers with a good quality, cheap, safe and efficient experience, and they will ditch illegal downloading. If the threat of temporary account suspension and its implementation in a small number of cases helps to build a market to make this happen, then I believe it is worth our serious consideration.
However, he must understand that to many, it looks as if the lobbying power of the big content owners is getting them preferential treatment and there is also some irony attached to one or two of Mandelson’s statements.
‘Wrong’ is a fact of business life
“First, taking something for nothing, without permission, and with no compensation for the person who created and owns it, is wrong.”
Yes it is. But lots of things are wrong. Here are some well known examples:
-Bankers accepting large sums of public money and then awarding themselves unreasonably large bonuses in the face of public and government condemnation is wrong.
-Using UK taxpayers money to bail out established businesses in the car industry, which are owned by highly profitable foreign companies is wrong.
-It is wrong that the perpetrator of the UK’s biggest mass murder, someone who left hundreds of people bereaved, returned to Libya to a hero’s welcome. If UK trade with Libya suddenly increases as a result, that is wrong too.
Hard choices in the face of overwhelming social, financial and political forces have to be made by Government all the time. Lord Mandelson says it is wrong, he says ‘it’s that simple’. Well, like the examples above, Lord Mandelson knows full well it is not that simple, governing is almost never about simple choices between right and wrong.
One rule for banking?
“I was shocked to hear that as much as half of all internet traffic in the UK is for the carriage of unlawful content.”
Yes, it is shocking. But most of us were shocked when we realised banks were too big to fail and saw just how irresponsibly they were behaving.
“If technical solutions can discourage piracy, then as a Government we are obliged to consider them.”
So if very serious regulatory frameworks for banks are required, then the Government are obliged to consider those too? In fact, consider them they did, and then discounted them because even though it is the right thing to do ethically and in terms of short term public opinion, it is not practically possible and may damage the UK’s interests even more in the long term.
Lord Mandelson continues:
“Our creative businesses drive much of our economy... we should create a regulatory environment where they can operate without having to deal with illegal competition.”
This is going to be very complex and too tight a regulatory framework might have unintended consequences, the least of which is criminalising six million internet users. For example, I am just about to buy a DVD of the comedians Mitchell and Webb’s last TV series. I didn’t realise they were so good until I saw a number of clips on YouTube which were forwarded to me by a friend. I’m also about to buy a Sky+ box, and if there is another series, I’ll record the lot legally and won’t bother with the DVD next time.
Tom Watson finishes by listing six individuals and organisations that officials would do well to consult. It will be very interesting to see if Lord Mandelson follows up on Tom’s suggestions and if so, what kind of face time they get with him.