The DE Bill, Mark Thomas and BBC Balance

Mark Thomas is a well known campaigner against corporate lawlessness, greed and against capitalism’s consumption of humanity. He recently made a TV article for the culture show on the Digital Economy Bill,

He interviewed a number of people on both sides of the debate. Frankly, I think he was pretty tame, and balanced; I know I’d have given Timms & Sharkey a much harder time, and Andrew Heaney, of Talk Talk, made a real pig’s ear of answering the question, “Why not enforce the law?”.

However, the music industry seem deeply unhappy as reported by among others the Guardian  and have formally complained to the BBC about their breach of their duty to impartiality. So not only do these companies supported by the Labour Government threaten our freedom of speech, access to culture and right to a fair trial, they are also threatening the publicly owned BBC. It doesn’t surprise me, because one of the hidden arguments in the copyright wars is that the private sector have a right to make money by ‘alienating’ creative workers. Public sector and co-operative organisations have a much better chance to build business models around a no-copyright world. The BBC is probably the largest and most successful publicly owned content company in the world and as such is hated by all those rapacious profiteers who seek to monetise the distribution of content.

I for one have used the BBC’s web site, https://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/, to praise them for this article, and make the point that their duty of balance is across the whole of their output, and not applicable to just one show. I feel there were some inaccuracies in the show, but whenever you know a story well, you find this. What “UK Music” need to understand, in the words from “The Wire”,

“A lie ain’t a side of a story. It’s just a lie.”

and the fact is that this is not about the wages of, or entry into the creative industries. Billy Bragg, among others, made it clear, and has elsewhere that this is about industrialised music’s profits. Its not even the case that despite Bono’s whinging and suggestion we adopt China’s approach to freedom of expression that high earning artists get more from royalties than from earnings at concerts. They earn more by charging for their time, just as the most of the rest of us do. Its the lawyers and suits, like Simon Cowell who’ll loose out if we abolished copyright, or even restricted it to five years. This is what makes Sharkey’s comments that poor musicians  are

“earning less than last year”

moronic, the DE bill will boost the profitability of the music industry and the wages of their lawyers, it’ll do very little for the average musician, who of course doesn’t have a recording contract. Sharkey stated that the average earnings of, I assume, british musicians was under £15K. What’s the average wage of the copyright lawyers at the UK Music companies?. You only have to look at who’ supporting this to see the truth, its about protecting privilidge, not enhancing creativity.

Thomas asked Andrew Heaney,

“why not enforce the law?”

and as an executive of a PLC, he has to answer that he does and will. However, since the charities commission definition of a political organisation is one that seeks to change the law, the DE Bill is a matter of politics and we as citizens and voters need to consider the moral right and wrong. Copyright is a human artifact, not  moral statement. Those who advocate the free copying of knowledge and culture don’t deny the right of musicians, lawyers and business people to sell their time or charge for tickets. Breaking copyright law is not theft, nor is it piracy. Why is it morally wrong? I personally haven’t a clue and no one that supports the DE bill has presented me with a reason for changing my mind. Its only illegal because its against the law, once we talk about changing the law, maybe we should abolish copyright, not strengthen it. The DE Bill’s clauses on so called illegal file sharing clauses threaten internet users freedom of speech, freedom of expression, access to culture and innocent until proven guilty, all basic human rights established by the European Convention on Human Rights or the United Nations Human Rights Charter.

Copyright and industrial music’s profits aren’t worth the price.

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