Saturday, 18 April 2009

On name-dropping and argument at the Ditigal Britain Summit

On Friday 17 April I attended the Digital Britain summit at the British Library in London.

The day covered the whole breadth of the topic, from the cable, fibre and wireless infrastructure needed to deliver Next Generation Access (NGA) through to the needs and confidence of consumers, to the issues around intellectual property (IP) and the protection of creativity and innovation.

We were treated to four government ministers including the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, himself (not that he said much of relevance but it does, as we were frequently reminded, show the seriousness with which the UK government views this issue).

On the subject of piracy and the respect of IP, or lack of it, in the digital environment I got into a heated debate with two middle-aged attendees over coffee who refused to accept that piracy and illegal file sharing had any negative consequences at all (I mention age because we are so frequently told that it is only the young who are so naive about such matters). Instead I was told that there were no costs to producing content (which must come as a bit of a surprise to, for example, the Hollywood film studios!), that copying and distribution were free and that file sharing was free marketing. Of course when I asked how creators and rightsholders should recoup their investment I was told that it's for us to figure out and if we don't someone else will. Great.

The highlight for me was a long chat with Fergal Sharkey, former front man for The Undertones, chart-topping solo artist and now CEO of UK Music. UK Music are doing a huge amount to expose the impact that illegal file sharing and piracy are having on the creative industries and are banner wavers for all of us...

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