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I have a 14-year-old son and he has a laptop. He and his friends share films on it. On his laptop at the moment, he has a number of films that are on show in the Odeon now; they are not on DVD because they have not yet been legally released. However, he has—against my wishes and, indeed, with my strong disapproval—downloaded those films from sites such as The Pirate Bay. My son has also told me how one of his friends at school will buy a computer game, which the students then crack, and it goes around the entire school. Every single laptop will have that game on it, and everyone will be playing it, but there will have been only one purchase.

Mr. Foster: May I ask the hon. Gentleman to advise his son that I had a meeting earlier today with the Internet Service Providers Association, which told me of the trial that it is about to start to identify his son and people like him and to take out criminal proceedings against them? I ask the hon. Gentleman to warn his son that that is about to happen. I, for one, welcome the action.

Mr. Whittingdale: I shall certainly convey that warning. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that I have done my best already, but the real problem is that it is not a small number of people who are doing this—it is the vast majority of the teenage population. We cannot lock up every teenager in the country.

Mr. Vaizey: Leaving aside the possibility of my hon. Friend turning himself and his son in at the end of the debate, there is a serious point. I cannot imagine my hon. Friend getting up and happily telling hon. Members, “My son goes shoplifting every day.” However, he is happy to tell us that his son downloads films from pirate websites. Does that not illustrate graphically the gulf in public opinion on stealing a physical object from a shop and stealing intellectual property, and the huge journey that still has to be made?

Mr. Whittingdale: My hon. Friend anticipates precisely the point that I was coming to. He is of course entirely right. Young people do not see that there is anything wrong with the practice. They have grown up with it and they see it as perfectly normal behaviour. I have attempted to make the comparison with shoplifting that my hon. Friend made, but I have not been wholly successful. I shall continue to make the case because I strongly believe that the practice in question is theft, but it is an enormous challenge.

I welcome what the Minister said about greater education and the attempts that are being made to get the message across. British Music Rights, for example, has worked to introduce material into the curriculum to increase understanding of copyright. Such efforts are important, but, to return to a point I made earlier, the industry will just have to accept that behaviour is changing and will have to adapt its business models to take account of that fact. Something like a single payment subscription to an iTunes library, which would give access to a huge range of material, would be a far more productive way of addressing the problem. I simply do not think that we shall persuade people that the old business models are sustainable and that they must change their behaviour. Education is hugely important.

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Mr. Mark Field: Does my Friend accept, following the exchange between him and my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey), that although there is no sense that the behaviour in question is wrongdoing or theft in the way that shoplifting is theft, one way in which Government, Parliament and the industry might appeal to young people is to make the case that he made in his earlier comments: that much piracy funds misery in the developing world and is part and parcel of people trafficking, drug running and the like? It is an area of business that is often in the hands of large-scale wrongdoers, who use the proceeds to cross-fertilise other aspects of their criminal activity. A case should perhaps be made, in robust terms, that every time someone downloads illegally or buys a counterfeit CD, they help to bring about a hell of a lot more misery. The crime is not a victimless one.

Mr. Whittingdale: I half agree with my hon. Friend. I think he is correct when he talks about physical product. There is a lot of evidence that the manufacture of counterfeit DVDs and CDs is being conducted by organised crime and feeds the misery that he has described. The problem with online illegal distribution is that it is free. That is why everyone does it; they get access to the material and pay nothing, so there is not any great financial motive. A famous instance is The Pirate Bay, which I think was created by two Swedish teenagers; they did it because it was fun. They did not believe in copyright, and they had the technology, so they sat in their bedroom and created The Pirate Bay. As a result, peer-to-peer file sharing is now taking place across the world. The two people in question deny responsibility and say that all they did was to create the access mechanisms. That is not so much organised crime, and in some ways it represents a bigger challenge.

There are things that the Government can do besides improving education, which is vital, and encouraging the industry to adapt its practices. Some of those actions, which I welcome, are set out in the White Paper. However, I hope that the Government will not consider hardware levies. I have not seen evidence that they are being considered by the Government, but there are some in the industry who are now talking about them, and of course they exist in one or two European countries. It seems to me that a tax on blank discs or iPods is not the way forward: it would clearly be unpopular, and it would be very difficult to work out how the proceeds of such a levy would be distributed back to the owners of rights, as some have suggested.

A small measure that could be taken, which the Select Committee recommended, and which might make a difference, concerns access to pirated films, which sometimes appear within hours of a film’s release. Quite a lot of it is done by people sitting in cinemas with camcorders. When people go to the cinema they see all sorts of dire warnings on the screen about being expelled and subsequently banned from the cinema, prosecuted and fined, but the truth is that such filming is not a criminal offence. It is a civil offence. The industry has suggested that making it a criminal offence would send a strong signal, and the Select Committee supported that.

The most important element, as the Minister rightly mentioned, is to encourage the ISPs to accept that they must get involved and that they have a responsibility. For a long time, ISPs seemed to be saying, “We are no
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more than telecoms companies. We supply the copper down which data flow, but in the same way that British Telecom cannot be held accountable for what people say in telephone conversations, we cannot be held accountable for how people use our delivery mechanisms.” That is now changing, and the Government are right to express the hope that a self-regulatory system can be created.

This morning, while the hon. Member for Bath was meeting the Internet Service Providers Association, I was meeting Yahoo! I was told that the discussions between the Music Publishers Association and the ISPs are very productive. There is a general willingness to accept that where the rights holder identifies a particular IP address as the source of a lot of material that is being uploaded, they can notify the ISP, which will identify which computer, if not which user, is responsible and serve a notice of warning that if the activity continues, they will be taken down. That is a real step forward and represents a change of attitude in the industry. I hope that others will join that move—for example, I think there is a role for search engines to play in trying to make it far harder for people to find out how to access illegal material.

We can be optimistic about such measures being introduced. I am told that in America the ISPs are discovering that the amount of video content that is being distributed is taking up a vast amount of bandwidth and slowing down the whole system. They know that the majority of that activity is illegal. Tackling the problem is therefore becoming something that is in the ISPs’ interests. That may explain why they have suddenly become rather more enthusiastic about doing so.

I will finish on the issue of copyright extension, which was raised by the hon. Member for Bath and will no doubt be mentioned by the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). There has been a long-standing campaign by the music industry, which points to the fact that composers, lyricists and designers all enjoy copyright on CDs until 70 years after their deaths, whereas the producers and performers have only a 50-year term. That is unfair.

The Gowers report suggested that the extension of copyright term might not produce much economic benefit. That has been questioned by the industry, as I mentioned earlier, but, at the end of the day, that does not seem to me to be the point at all. It is not about whether extension will generate more economic activity, but about morals and rights. Why should somebody who creates a work be allowed to benefit from it for only 50 years? Other countries across the world have far longer terms. The case for moving in that direction is very strong.

I cannot resist reading a letter that I received last year—one of the most exciting letters that I have received for a long time. It came from Mr. Eddie Clarke, also known as Fast Eddie, the lead guitarist of Motörhead. I must admit that I have seen them perform on several occasions. He wrote:

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I think that Fast Eddie speaks for a huge number of performers in the industry. It was for that reason that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee recommended an extension of the copyright term. We were extremely disappointed that the Government did not respond positively to that suggestion. However, things have since changed. Suddenly, out of the blue, Commissioner McCreevy saw the light and issued a statement that bears a remarkable resemblance to the wording of the Select Committee report. That may not be entirely coincidental, but the fact that the European Commission has accepted that there is a strong case for copyright term extension will, I hope, cause the Government to think again.

I welcome the Minister’s comment to me at Question Time a few days ago when she said that she had an open mind. However, like those who have already contributed today, I hope that her open mind will allow her to reconsider the matter soon and to reach a firm decision. An indication that she is becoming more sympathetic to our case—I am sure that other hon. Members will express support for it—would be a welcome and major contribution to supporting the creative industries.

3.30 pm

Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North) (Lab): It is a pleasure to have you in Chair for the first time ever, Mr. Weir. I thought that Westminster Hall would be Havana Hall this afternoon and that I would be able to speak for two and half hours without interruption. However, much has already been said by others, and I do not wish to repeat it. The subject is important and I should like to accentuate one or two points that have not been made so far.

There is, as the Minister pointed out, a link between the creative industries and the economy that is becoming ever more important. As the country’s financial services wobble—some of them might disappear—it is important to prevent similar problems in the creative industries and ensure that they continue. Our higher education facilities and universities are full of creativity—creation, too, in the odd academy—and innovation is rampant in most of our universities. There are problems, however, which have been highlighted by Mr. Will Hutton, whom the Minister mentioned.

The creative industries produce many millions of jobs and attendant jobs among people who help them to expand through exports and so on. I do not want to talk about the difference between innovation and creativity—we could have a great debate about that but, to me, they are mutually dependent: a bit of both goes into the production of any particular product. However, we are not getting enough from the higher education facilities in this country. Oxford and Cambridge are at the epicentre and have shown the way forward, and other places are catching up, but we are missing out on a lot of the creativity and bright ideas that flow in those places. As Lambert pointed out, business links with universities are pretty weak. We all know that they must happen, but nobody has come forward and told us how to make them happen or how to pick up ideas and turn them into products.

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Hutton says that intellectual property from the UK university sector generated only £31 million in a sector valued at more than £10 billion, so there is a lot to do. Morgan Cole, a law firm, said that 90 per cent. universities still prefer to publish their ideas to boost their research standing in the academic realm rather than apply for patents. As Hutton says—I agree—that results in an enormous opportunity to make money from university research being forgone. The link with the economy is found in spin-out companies, which continue to be a great success in Oxford and Cambridge and elsewhere because of the creative, innovative, bright and sparky people that gravitate to those firms. We need to put business profits back into the academic heartland.

Mr. Mark Field: I am sorry to stop the hon. Gentleman—

Dr. Gibson: From winding-up?

Mr. Mark Field: I was going to say “in full flow”—I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not winding-up.

The hon. Gentleman talks about our two ancient universities, but it is fair to say that a number of other institutions do extremely well in that regard such as—I say this with a parochial interest in mind—Imperial college, which is in my constituency. It has been at the forefront of the commercial exploitation of many of its own ideas, which I hope will be a precursor to many other universities, old and new, doing the same.

Dr. Gibson: I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. Of course Imperial, Manchester, Newcastle, Dundee, Edinburgh and other places have little pockets, but still, I think, universities concentrate on their academic work. I am not talking about Imperial, which has engineering and such like, but other universities in this country concentrate too much on the academic side. They have to do that, but they do it too much, and they miss a lot of opportunities.

As Hutton says:

We need some kind of interaction, which I think can come only from political endeavour. Business should pay partly for universities and higher education colleges because that is where the innovation and creativity come from, and it should pay for the students who end up working for companies. In America, when new students go to a city such as Philadelphia, it is not simply left to the university to entertain and talk to them; instead, the city’s community and commercial sector goes to talk to them to help in the recruitment process. From the beginning, students get the feeling that they have not gone to the city only to get degrees or to do all the other things that undergraduates do excitedly. They get the feeling that they will have jobs in the city if they wish. It is important to get such a culture going, but we have a long way to go.

I could try again to get top-up fees abolished—[Interruption.] I have not changed my mind on the matter—the Minister and I engaged in many debates on the issue in front of television cameras and so on. However, if business takes its responsibilities seriously, a lot of the hardship that has been generated by top-up
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fees for many students—working class students might not get in, but that is still to be shown—we would form a new kind of culture that brought lots more bright people into the higher education sector.

I also want to talk very briefly about the creative writing industry, which I know a lot about. At the university of East Anglia in Norwich, a friend of mine—sadly, he is no longer with us—Malcolm Bradbury set up a creative writing course. We arrived at the university at the same time: I was at one end of the campus, he at the other; I was doing boring, nerdy science, and he was doing exciting things with creative writing. Books such as “Eating People is Wrong” and “The History Man” came out of a bright idea from the bright young man who set the course up. That creative writers group produced Ian McEwan, Anne Enright, who won the Man Booker prize this year—McEwan has won it before—and Ishiguro. Talented people were attracted into a small department where they got the help and education to form them into a creative writing force.

Writing, be it books, pamphlets or whatever, is very important in our culture and in our lives. Interestingly, “Atonement”, Ian McEwan’s recent book, is about Oxford and Cambridge. I have had sharp words with him because he could write about a more provincial university than Oxford or Cambridge, but that is Ian. Throughout the whole of England, there is great potential for creativity in writing and music, about which we will hear more, and in science and mathematics. The fashion and clothing industry has also been mentioned. There is great creativity waiting to be used in many industries.

I do not wish to talk about Trevor Bayliss and his clockwork radio, because people who have never been to university invent and produce important things because their brain is ticking and because the receive support. It was not easy to get support for the clockwork radio, which is so important in the developing world, but it happened. He now argues for a bachelor of invention degree.

We heard a little about intellectual property and the primary curriculum review. That will be important. People do not have a clue what intellectual property really is. I know about it because I have had an insect named after me, so I have a really important patent. That is the first time that I have confessed that. It has been no use to me and I am not a multimillionaire. When people discover things, they go immediately to get patents. I did so because I was told to. A patent lawyer who moved in university circles told me that I must go and get a patent. I would be surprised if anything is named after the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey).

Mr. Vaizey: If the hon. Gentleman is going to share this information with the House, he could at least specify which insect is named after him.

Dr. Gibson: It is a very social insect. Does the hon. Gentleman understand what an ant is?

Mr. Vaizey: Yes.

Dr. Gibson: Well, it is a kind of ant. Now there is a confession for you.

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