What’s Going on Between the Government and the British Music Industry?

Most readers will be aware of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between leading UK ISPs and the UK music industry body the BPI, with the government and Ofcom effectively acting as mediators. The MOU focuses on pursuing co-regulatory solutions, including a trial in which ISPs send letters to file sharers. There’s been lots of vociferous debate about how far government involvement should go, and whether the UK should ultimately end up with a ‘Three Strikes’ policy whereby repeat serial offenders get their broadband disconnected.

Though the debate has raged fiercely, the perception has been that the government has been sympathetic to helping protect the music industry’s IP. Indeed the Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has spoken of the importance of protecting the UK’s Creative Industries and even talked of the government’s “serious legislative intent” with regards to the issue.

So imagine most people’s surprise when the Intellectual Property Minister David Lammy threw a spanner in the works with an interview with the Times in which he appeared to rule out any legislative solution and compared file sharing to stealing soap from hotel rooms. This triggered a stern rebuttal from the BPI. And to be fair, the soap comparison is a poor one. The core business of hotels is not selling soap. Stealing the soap is not stealing a hotelier’s core business.

That issue aside, what these comments suggest is one or both of the following:

  • The Government is beginning a process of disengagement or distancing from it’s previous position
  • The Government is highly divided and does not have a common position

This highly emotive issue has transcended music business and IP issues, and has firmly entered the realm of national politics, which isn’t necessarily a good thing for either the BPI or the ISPs. Politically motivated decisions and regulation do not often deliver good business results. And with the economy where it is, and, as my colleague Ian Fogg pointed out, with the UK government sensitive to its fragile popularity ratings, passing non-consumer friendly forceful legislation probably isn’t at the top of the agenda.

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5 thoughts on “What’s Going on Between the Government and the British Music Industry?

  1. It never ceases to amaze me how people don’t understand or refuse to understand the process and the damage this does to the creative people who participate in the process. Maybe these offenders should be punished by having them spend a year making a living writing songs and having them placed in films and TV or even on the radio, that would change their view – they would most likely be broke. We work hard to bring them content and that needs to be respected

  2. Pingback: What’s Going on Between the Government and the British Music Industry?

  3. It puzzles be that the music business thought “Three strikes and you’re out” was ever going to be a workable solution. What about innocent people who would lose their internet connection along with the guilty? One member of a family illegally downloads music so the entire family loses their internet connection? One student illegally downloads music so every one in the flatshare loses their internet connection? One employee illegally downloads music so the company loses its internet connection? Laws are there to punish the guilty, not those who live or work with them!
    If the government are backing off from this idea they aren’t just doing themselves a favour, they’re doing the music business one too. The would be a rising sense of injustices committed followed, no doubt, by overturned judgements in the courts and the eventual scrapping of the law, either by our government or the European Parliament.
    Of course the music business needs to find a solution to their problem but lashing out like a cornered animal at innocent and guilty alike is short-sighted foolishness that ultimately will not benefit them at all.

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