Dying quango says Britons oppressed by the Man

What did the Romans ever do for us?

Britons are suffering under the yoke of the world's most oppressive copyright laws, says quango Consumer Focus. The taxpayer-funded fake charity, which is due to be abolished, agrees that the UK has the third worst "copyright regime" behind Chile and Jordan. Moldova is praised as the most admirable in the world.

The rankings were carried out by the Soros-funded group Consumer International, which campaigns for "salt reduction", against "junk food", and promotes climate change "awareness". British taxpayers paid almost £59,760 to CI, funnelled via Consumer Focus as a "research and development" expense.

It's an interesting view of "rights", and one that requires some mental gymnastics.

Creators' rights are enshrined in several international agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that "everyone has the right to protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author." Signatories agree that the individual creator, no matter how poor, must have access to redress violations of this right.

But in Consumer Focus' quango-logic, this is turned upside-down. A lack of protection for creative individuals is treated as a positive, not a negative. The access of consumers to fair services that compensate the creator is not considered. Britain has an abundance of these, with more music services than any other country in the world. But this spoils the story, so counts for nothing.

The psychology is also interesting: it demands victims and oppressors, so where no oppression exists, it must be invented. No Briton has ever been prosecuted for home taping for personal use, or for format-shifting, despite these activities being copyright infringement. But rights-holders do not take up the option of prosecution: the law is not applied. If a law is not enforced, it may as well not exist.

This too is an inconvenient bit of reality for Consumer Focus, which simply ignores it.

"It is absurd that consumers can't use digital technology to enjoy what they have bought without finding themselves on the wrong side of the law," fumes Consumer Focus' chief executive Mike O'Connor (CBE).

So a pirate economy such as Moldova, long criticised for its human rights violations, is regarded as more liberal, and less oppressive, than the UK.

For this logic, dear taxpayer, you must continue to pay £16.8m a year until 2013, when Consumer Focus is formally abolished.

Who is Consumer Focus?

When thinking of a national consumer group, you may picture a ramshackle office in an unfashionable suburb, staffed with enthusiast volunteers, or a small handful of staff on the minimum wage. But nothing could be further from reality.

For while the Spartist quango cares little for the remuneration rights of creators, or small creative businesses, it rewards itself very generously. Consumer Focus employs over 180 staff, six of whom enjoy an average annual salary of £74,167, including an interim "Director of Reputation and Impact". Eighteen more draw an average salary of £55,572, including the "Programme Lead – Disadvantage and Sustainability". The "chief executive officer" was paid between £110,000 and £115,000 in 2009/2010. Deputy Ed Mayo, who left (in 2009), reeled in between £100,000 and £115,000.

So at least somebody is prospering in the digital economy.

The group also splashes the cash overseas: £67,000 went to the European Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateur, the membership organisation for national consumer groups, and dished out almost £60,000 to Consumer International. Which is where we came in.®

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What have the Romans ever done for us?

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