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Lord Triesman on P2P, pop-ups and the Klaxons

The Great Copyright Debate

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In my view it would be utterly fruitless to go around the country and stop every 14-year-old downloading a track. It couldn't be done properly in any case - but you'd hack off everybody as you appreciate they have.

Yet we have bandit DVDs and CDs and these are closely associated with the same gangs of people trafficking in the drugs trade, and the illegal movement or arms - these are nexuses of criminal activity that fit together. There's a raft of activities that are very damaging.

“Perhaps the technologies can pop up something on people's computer which when they're downloading says, 'You don't really want to do this'.”

Are you worried about a backlash against creative industries if people feel persecuted by them?

That's a matter for them to judge.

But if I have to rank in order our priorities - the government's priorities - the first thing is the mass distribution of large scale crime.

Secondly, and below that, is probably an intermediate category. Some of it may be relatively small scale - car boot sales, such as driving fakes out before the London Olympic Games.

Then the tens or hundreds of thousands of people downloading a tune. I don't want people to think this is the Spanish Inquisition, with a knock on the door in the middle of the night.

Is it a crime?

It's an illegality. Drinking two and half pints before you go out driving is a crime. The critical thing is that we won't address the issue by policing. What we can potentially do is get a cultural shift. Perhaps the technologies can pop up something on people's computer which when they're downloading says, "You don't really want to do this".

What we don't have is a dialogue with the people doing it, and that's not helpful.

This isn't just a semantic issue. Something is illegal because it's unlicensed. Doesn't the history of copyright show that technology always runs ahead of the legislation, that something is always illegal until it's licensed? Copyright is fairly meaningless without the compensation, and once we have compensation it'll be legal...

There are several ways in which this can be done, and some are more desirable than others. What I don't want to say is what I want to do in advance of the consultation - then people will say why are you consulting.

Some people think there should be levy on the kit - some people think there should be a levy on each piece of material that's downloaded. But it's certainly true that people should be able to earn a living producing good and original works that people want to consume, then there will need to be a way they can earn a living.

You said that there would be legislation if there was no voluntary agreement?

Timetables should be indicative. I'm not PM, I'm not writing the Queen's speech - but that's the first opportunity to do it, that's a fact. There is no objective reason why they cannot arrive at a voluntary agreement, and that would be miles better. Agreements reached between people are always better than legislation.

What's your impression of what the French are doing, with 'three strikes and you're out'?

The French came over to discuss their early thinking before they got to this position, and at the time I got the sense that they thought I had a harsh view about legislation being a back stop. Only now I find that having had the discussion, they came up with a harder proposition than the one we'd been discussing.

“If you try to protect gene sequences, then the odds are you'll have less economic benefit.”

In societies that are historically very creative, and the French certainly are, they are asking, "What can we do to ensure the best part of our creative industries are not driven out of existence because people can steal the content?".

I think it's a problem facing every advanced economy - because in every advanced economy it is these areas that will grow and outpace the traditional parts of the economy. We’ve got to be in a position to make sure it happens, and the French are serious about it.

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