Written by Alice Taylor, commissioning editor for education at Channel 4, the essay flies in the face of Westminster’s Digital Britain report, which recommended that persistent file-sharers should have their internet access restricted or even barred.
Taylor argues that enforcing out-dated attitudes on how information is shared – ie, paying for it – is “a dying behemoth”.
She writes: “We must not let these dying behemoths take away someone’s internet access – and connection to the world – for some accusatory, unprovable ‘piracy’ claim, ever.”
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Taylor was commissioned to write the essay for Perspectives, a website designed to engage with Scotland’s creative industries and practitioners, ahead of the establishment of Creative Scotland, the body being formed by the merging of Scottish Screen and the Scottish Arts Council.
The essay is aimed at provoking debate about intellectual property, copyright and accessibility. The issue has vexed bands from Metallica to Radiohead and is one which Creative Scotland will form a policy on when it comes into being next spring.
Taylor said that “copyright maximalists” like the former Undertones singer and head of UK Music Fergal Sharkey were wrong in wanting people to go back to buying music and “respecting copyright”. UK Music is the umbrella organisation for the music industry.
Access is key to success, and piracy was “simply demand where supply does not exist,” said Taylor.
She added that using “pointless protection mechanisms” and regulation, “restricts a person’s ability, as a creator, to be discovered”.
One of Scotland’s most respected authorities on intellectual property believes Taylor has a point about the way the creative industries talk about internet piracy.
It should not be about individuals, said Professor Hector MacQueen, from the University of Edinburgh’s Law School.
“The creative industries do go on about piracy in a way that is incorrect,” he said. “Some of the rhetoric that rights-holders use is legally illiterate. Piracy is defined as commercial counterfeiters rather than being about individuals.”
Alison Butchart, from the Intellectual Assets Centre in Glasgow, said the ideal way forward, balancing a youthful generation’s reluctance to pay for anything online with the commercial needs of the artist, would be to follow the Spotify and YouTube models, where artists get a share of the site’s advertising revenue when their song or video gets played for free.
Despite being an issue reserved to Westminster, Creative Scotland will draw up a policy on intellectual property and copyright.
Ewan Brown, chairman of Creative Scotland 09 Ltd, said: “Essentially, there is a balance to be struck between the right of the creator to be rewarded for their talent and the benefits to creative development that the widest accessibility offers.
“Creative Scotland, when established, will aim to support artists and creative practitioners to recognise the benefits and implications of protecting, selling and sharing their work and talent.”