Peter Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has made an interesting guest contribution to the Times (29th August 2009) titled “Taking something for nothing is wrong . . . . . . that’s why we must stop illegal file sharing and give the creative industries a breathing space”
The article, which is a good read, can be found in the Saturday Times for the princely sum of just £1.50 (ooo err – forget about David Geffen and Corfu, with an election on the way should we tell Mr Murdoch that Labour’s Lord Mandelson is helping him monetise content) or it can be found just one click away (for free, ooops) here.
I think Mandelson’s argument is facile and faulty.
Facile in that it is a reductio ad absurdum moralizing claim – “file sharing is wrong.” That is more than an oversimplification; it is a blinkered view which presupposes the only tenable means for a creator of a work to be paid is to control all copying of their work. It ignores the reality that there are other means for creators to get paid, and that file sharing has benefits. It is willfully ignorant of the fact that the internet inevitably brings change in terms of amount and method of compensation to a creator. It is different, but it isn’t a question of “right” and “wrong”. Using that language only obfuscates the many considerations which need to be grappled with to determine policy in the public interest.
Faulty in that though Mandelson claims the market is the solution he is set on a course which is more than regulatory – it is outright meddlesome in ordinary activity of average people. To attempt to control all unauthorized copying on the internet is a mistake. Mandelson is proposing something very interventionalist which rather than letting the market work things out attempts to prop up one particular dying business model. This will serve to retard progress.
The solution is to find business models which work with the internet, i.e. free and limitless distribution, instead of against it. For example encourage creators to work out arrangements wherein advertising is embedded in their content and pay them based on how many views or listeners the work receives.
Free and limitless distribution? Why make this available for my copyright and not your house, car and computer? I'll drive your car for free if you cover it with advertising? I'll live in your house if you cover it with advertising.
No wonder so many talented people become property developers, merchant bankers and stockbrokers. No one suggests pinching their efforts.
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