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6 Apr 2010 : Column 884

Pete Wishart: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I pay tribute to the work that he does as chair of the all-party jazz appreciation group-I know that that is something that he particularly enjoys. He is absolutely right-it is not sharing, but taking. Nothing is shared by the people who take this for absolutely nothing. They are not giving anything back in return.

Who opposes these measures? Of course, the powerful internet service providers and their digital rights friends do not like them. The ISPs are the pipes that allow such activity to take place, but they have to accept their responsibility for what is provided by their hugely lucrative infrastructure. To try to solve this problem, they have been encouraged, persuaded and asked to come to the table to try to deal with it. However, apart from Sky and Virgin-who are content rights holders themselves-they have wilfully refused to co-operate or participate, so they must now be obliged to do so by legislation. They have had their chance to come to the table.

Mr. TalkTalk and Mr. BT have been sending me all these briefings about freedom and human rights, but the only people in the disconnection business are TalkTalk, BT and the other ISPs, when they do not get their share. It is all right for the rights holders to give their stuff away for nothing. Mr. TalkTalk and Mr. BT should lead by example and let access be allowed for nothing. Somehow, I do not think that they will be taking up that particular offer. This is where we are in the debate. It is all right for somebody else to give something away for nothing, but if they are asked to give something away, they will not be interested at all. We should be careful in the lessons that we take from TalkTalk, BT and the rest of the ISPs.

Mr. Simon: If someone has a relationship with BT and does not pay their bill, what happens? What is the process, as a rule?

Pete Wishart: As I understand it, if someone does not pay their bill to BT or TalkTalk for their internet service provision, they get cut off. That is what happens. This is the key point-it is all right for everybody else to give their works away for nothing, but they are not prepared to do that themselves.

Of course, we are preached to about human rights and proportionality. What about the human rights of the artists? What about their interests? What about the proportionality of getting a crust for what they produce? Surely that is important, too. These powerful vested interests have objected to any and every measure to tackle illegal file sharing. Every proposal has its faults, every suggestion is a suggestion too far. Fault must be and will be found in every method of trying to tackle this. Those with vested interests simply do not want a solution to illegal file sharing and they will never agree to any proposal to address these problems.

I accept that there are issues with the Bill. There are certain things that we have to reconsider and that have to be addressed. It is not the most elegant solution for the internet account holder to be targeted, but there is no other way to do it. I have not heard any other way of trying to find out how to bring these infringers to task. There is no good way. Being an internet account holder should come with the responsibility to ensure that no illegal activity is conducted in their name or under their contract. There are issues to do with wi-fi hot spots and with universities and colleges, but it takes good faith to fix this. I take for granted everything that the hon.
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Member for Birmingham, Erdington said when he argued that there are solutions. Some people do not want to know about the solutions-they only want to highlight the problems and the difficulties. Of course there are solutions. If people of good faith are prepared to work together, we can, of course, ensure that they are solved, but some are not interested in working together to solve this because they do not want to solve it at all.

The Musicians' Union reminds us that the average musician earns less than £14,000. Losing royalties makes the day-to-day struggle even harder. We have heard from the rich, powerful musicians-those who have already made their fortunes from selling their records. If they want to give their music away for nothing and use it as a loss leader to sell other products, that is fine. No one is stopping them from doing that. If they want to give their work away for nothing, they can, but they should not make the rest of the music community and musicians who are finding it tough to make some sort of living subscribe to that. I spent 17 years in the music industry and I made a reasonable living out of being a musician and plying my trade, but I saw people who did not. The vast majority of musicians who I know do not earn that kind of money. When they get a hit single-when they get that lucky break from producing a fantastic song-they are entitled to absolutely every penny that comes from the work that they have produced.

The Musicians Union is hand in hand with all the other unions that are involved in this debate and want to see the aims of the Bill realised. I was grateful to see the letter today in The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, I think, from the head of the TUC. The unions and the creative industries have united to ensure that this legislation will happen. Millions of jobs are involved. If we do not deal with this issue, it will have an impact on jobs and prosperity in every constituency. That is why it must be addressed. We have to recognise that our international competitors are moving to protect their digital economies and their creators to ensure that their creative economies keep growing. If we do not act now, there is a strong chance that we will be left behind. If we are to realise our ambition to be a worldwide hub for the creative industries, we have to protect our artists, designers, inventors and creators.

I want to speak briefly about some of the other issues in the Bill. I welcome the DAB radio switchover, which is a good measure, but I ask the Minister to have some sort of respect for all the analogue equipment, such as microphones, that was previously used. We have to find something to do with all that.

I, too, have great reservations about clause 43. As I have already said, everyone should be rewarded and valued for the work they produce, so I am totally with the photographers. We should ensure that they are similarly rewarded. The orphan works idea is a fantastic one, and it is right that those pieces should be brought back into public use, but we have to be very careful about the impact that will have on photographers. I support the measures in relation to Channels 4 and 3 and Five, and I think that what is proposed for Ofcom is a reasonable, workable and sensible solution for the future.

I must say that I feel thoroughly let down by the Government's Business, Innovation and Skills team on this Bill. The way that the Bill has worked its way through Parliament has been an utter disgrace. The Bill should have started in this House; it should have been the business of democratically elected Members of
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Parliament, not of unelected appointees, cronies and donors. It should have been debated in this place. There is absolutely no reason whatever why the Bill could not have been initiated in this House. I am a Scottish National party Member, and my party does not have any peers in the House of Lords. This is the first time that my party and Plaid Cymru have had a chance to look at the Bill. Surely, it is not right that political parties in this House cannot get proper scrutiny of Bills when unelected peers, appointees, cronies and donors can. Surely, it is our business, and the opportunity for us to have a say on such important measures, especially those that have so exercised our constituents, must be ensured. It is an absolute disgrace that we have not been able to consider the legislation properly. I hope that the Minister will make sure that all of us are included in any wash-up discussions and procedures. It will not be good enough simply to allow us one Second Reading: we have to be centrally, critically and crucially involved in all wash-up discussions. It is not on for the Minister to think that he can casually exclude this House's parties from exercising democratic scrutiny.

The process has been a mess and a disgrace, but we need the measures in the Bill. We do not have any more time; we are bleeding money, jobs and industry from creative endeavours; we need this legislation now, and that is why I will support the Bill this evening. Our creators, artists, inventors and designers-the cream of the UK's creative industries-want this Bill, so that we can continue to have the best creative industry and digital economy. I urge all hon. Members to support the Bill, but I ask that we should, please, never do things this way again.

7.24 pm

Mr. Tom Watson (West Bromwich, East) (Lab): It is of great personal amusement to me that I happen to be following the previous two speakers. My very good friend the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) made an impassioned plea for his trade, and I understand his arguments even though they were slightly angry and vexatious at times. You might not know this Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I am something of a rock hero myself, having been a guest lead singer with the hon. Gentleman's band. I sang "Teenage Kicks" at another Member's 50th birthday, and I know that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire would have cleared the copyright and intellectual property licence and all that, because he would not have let me perform live unless he had.

May I also spend some time thanking my very good friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Simon), for his contribution and for his friendship over the years that he has been in this House? He has made a huge difference and has cheered us all up. I have had a few drinks with him in bars similar to those in "Star Wars", and I forgive him, because I think he has just referred to me as the estranged child of Peter Mandelson. If that is the case, he has used his uncanny political antennae to be, once again, ahead of the game. We shall miss you, Siôn.

This week marks the tercentenary of the Statute of Anne, 1710, which was the world's first copyright law. It opens with the words:

So the whole copyright settlement-I cannot be the only one to see the irony of this-came about because the British publishing industry was exploiting our creators and not giving them adequate remuneration for their work. Some 300 years on, a central question for any Government to ask themselves is how they can encourage more people to express themselves by using their creative talents to strengthen our society. Another central question for modern Governments to ask is how they will contend with the disruptive force of the internet. That is a question that we should be answering when we are framing legislation in this House.

I do not believe that this discussion will end today. It will dominate debates in this House for years to come. The next generation of MPs will have to contend with the direct implications that our regulatory moves in the internet sphere will have for the kind of society that we want to live in, and how they will impact on the rights that we all expect to have. How do we promote freedom of speech and balance it against rights to privacy? How do we contend with issues of centralised data gathering and storage by Governments versus rights of control over our own personal information? How do we balance the right to protect intellectual property that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire has talked about against rights of fair use? How do we balance people's right to express their views freely against the need to protect individuals from obscene forms of cyberbullying, for example?

There is an emerging recognition that we need to break down the digital divide in this country, so that there is a right to access the world wide web through universal broadband access. Politicians on both sides of the House have talked about access to the internet as an emerging right. That is why, at the higher end of the debate, people are extremely concerned that on one level we are talking about access to the internet being a right and that, on another, we are talking about practical measures such as removing people's access to knowledge-albeit after sending a letter-and removing the ability to share knowledge using the internet.

It is a very great pity that the Bill cannot be tested in Committee in the light of some of those questions. As a twice ex-Whip, I am rather embarrassed by the fact that the Bill is being railroaded through in the wash-up. Frankly, there has been a squalid deal between the three Front Benches, and they should be ashamed of themselves. The people who care about this Bill-and there are many out there-will see that for what it is.

Before I concentrate on the parts of the Bill that particularly concern me, I want to list the commendable elements that deserve very great praise. First, the proposal on video games classification is long overdue and will give clarity to many families around the country about what content of video games is appropriate for their children to consume. The video games industry in this country has a very big future. It currently employs something like 28,000 people, but with the right Government intervention, there is no reason why we could not have quadruple or quintuple that number of people working in the industry in years to come.

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Britain dominates the world when it comes to creativity, and any measure that will help consumers to accept that is to be welcomed. If the PEGI-pan-European game information-classification system is adopted, I know that the industry will engage in a public education campaign, and we should commend it for that.

The proposed new remit for Channel 4 to produce high-quality digital content is also a good idea, although, like my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt), I would have liked it to go further. Channel 4 is this country's digital pioneer: it does amazing things on very small budgets, and I had hoped that the regulatory regime offered in the Bill could have harnessed its creative endeavours a little more. We have talked already about the new powers for Ofcom to regulate the electromagnetic spectrum, and I am especially pleased that the Bill will extend public lending right to e-books and spoken-word books.

There are some very good measures in the Bill and, unlike some other contributors, I believe that the Government have much to be proud of in the digital space. Just last week, in an inspired move, we made 1:10,000 geo-spatial mapping date free for reuse through the Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey geo-spatial data is the jewel in the crown for data mashers up and down the country, and the move will foster a great sense of innovation and an explosion of creativity in the digital space. Freeing up data, liberating talent and catalysing creativity: these are the elements that we should be exploring in the Bill.

Earlier, I said that this debate was not new. We have been contending with ways to manage our collective intellectual capital since the Sumerian merchants of 5,000 BC made small marks on clay tablets to show their daily trades. The difference today, of course, is the sheer scale of the task.

How do we contend with what Richard Saul Wurman describes as a "tsunami" of data? Human beings produce five exabytes of recorded information in a year; that is 40,000 times the number of words stored in the British Library.

Kryder's law is the almost mystical formula that says that digital capacity will double every 13 months. It means that we can now super-process acres of data that could not be digested even 10 years ago. If the law remains accurate, we will be able to store all the content ever created in history on a single iPod by 2025. Given the level of technological advance and the pace of change, is it any wonder that many people believe that the current measures for policing file sharing are simply pointless?

Cheaper computing has created an industry and new thinking on information technology. In his book "We-think", Charles Leadbeater makes the point that

I think that the measures in this Bill will make it harder, not easier, for people to share knowledge and ideas through the internet and I am, frankly, baffled as to why any political party, on left or right, would want to go down that route.

I know that the worthy intention of those on all three Front Benches is to defend our creative industries. Everyone in this Chamber wants to do that, even though
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my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington has comically parodied my position, to the amusement of all. However, more enlightened members of both main parties privately tell me that they know that the copyright measures in this Bill are nonsensical. They say that they will give the big publishing interests that dominate the debate in this country a period of respite, during which they can compose themselves while they consider their next moves in the internet age.

I admire the Bill's motives in respect of copyright, but there is an opportunity cost associated with defending old publishing interests. Innovations will not stop in our competitor countries while we give the UK record industry time to think.

There is a less charitable, more sinister view of this Bill. I readily admit that it might play into the conspiracy theories so ably portrayed by the previous two speakers, but the attempts to create artificial scarcity with information goods represent a second enclosure movement in this country. The intangible assets of our society are being packaged up in a contemporary expansion of intellectual property.

As the Bill's supporters and critics make claim and counterclaim about the economic benefits of the measures contained in it, one thing has been abundantly clear to me throughout the debate. It is that there has been a huge and unprecedented lobbying operation by the old publishing interests. They are the beneficiaries of enclosure, and they have dominated the argument for months.

Michael Connarty: I respect my hon. Friend's forward thinking, but he obviously has not studied his history. The enclosure movement took away the enclosures around small fields to make larger fields so that larger technologies could be used. When all enclosures were taken away in America, the ultimate result was that the wind blew the topsoil off the land and the people starved. I think that he has got his analogy entirely wrong.

Mr. Watson: My hon. Friend and I could debate the historical complexities of the enclosure movement, but I have only four minutes left. Perhaps we could have that discussion afterwards.

The big publishing industries tell us that an expansion of property rights and enforcement are essential to fuelling progress and continuing innovation in this sector. They believe that we need more copyright laws, a scaling up of enforcement, more policing of the internet, and a greater intolerance of that most human of traits-sharing.

This Bill, outrageously in my view, is going to be forced through in the wash-up. When it is passed, however, there will remain some unpalatable truths that the next Government, and advocates for the position of big publishing in Government, must deal with. The internet exists, and it is not going away. Whatever technical measures are taken to enforce scarcity will fail. Even in China, where there are 30,000 internet police, people are sharing ideas, information, news, music and art at an ever increasing rate.

It is hard to describe to colleagues how our digital natives-the people who entered the world of work without thinking of the internet as a "new" technology-think about the anachronistic ideas that underpin the thinking behind this Bill. They understand the power and the beauty of the serendipitous hypertext link, and
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believe that it is part of human nature to take an idea and use it-to play with it and remix it into something new, as the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Peter Luff) described.

If hon. Members are beginning to think that I have taken leave of my senses with that comment, they should think about the Gene Hunt poster. What are the barriers to entry for young people who want to make a political statement? To take control of two images, they would have to sign a cumbersome licensing deal so that they could remix them and thus spark a debate, but in fact the remix event that took place caused thousands of young people to talk about the future. If we do not accept that that represents a cultural change in Britain, we will be forever doomed to holding debates that will appear merely futile to those young people.

The hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale)-the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee-and I often look in different directions on policy, but we agree solidly that making legislation on the hoof, as we are doing now, lets the law of unintended consequences kick in. The hon. Gentleman talked about legitimacy. I shall quote from one of the great copyright debates of 1841. Talking about reform of the then law, the great Lord Macaulay said:

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