Digital Top Stories

Pure Mint boss resigns BPI committee over Digital Economy Bill

By | Published on Friday 4 December 2009

The boss of indie label Pure Mint Recordings has resigned from the BPI Rights Committee and will step down from the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry’s International Legal Committee because of objections to the much previously reported Digital Economy Bill, which both the BPI and IFPI are supporting.

Anthony Hall, who is also a lawyer, says he has a number of concerns with the new legislation being proposed by Peter Mandelson’s government department, which is currently working its way through the House Of Lords. This is the legislation that would introduce a sort of three-strikes system for combating illegal file-sharing, which could lead to persistent file-sharers having their net connections suspended. It is also the Bill that, as previously reported, would give the Secretary Of State with responsibility for intellectual property powers to alter copyright legislation to cope with new piracy threats without consulting parliament.

Hall believes the proposed legislation has been rushed in a bid to get it through parliament before the next General Election, that it is in danger of disregarding some sacred legal principles (regarding process, presumption of innocence and burden of proof) and that it won’t solve the record industry’s piracy problems anyway.

In his resignation letter to the BPI, Hall writes: “I have enjoyed contributing to both [the BPI’s] Rights [Committee] and the [IFPI’s] ILC, but increasingly feel that my contributions are falling on deaf ears as an agenda has already been reached that I now consider is unmovable. As you know, I do not think the Digital Economy Bill is a sensible or well thought out piece of legislation. In my view it is being rushed through the last months of a parliament of an unpopular government and it is not legislation that I support”.

Referencing clause 17 – the one that gives senior ministers the right to change copyright laws on whim – he continued: “I am particularly surprised that the record industry has chosen to endorse s.17 of the DEB, which I consider is wholly undemocratic and contrary to centuries of good practice regarding the forming of our copyright legislation. I also believe it may set a dangerous precedent going forwards (and could come back to haunt the industry)”.

In a short document picking holes in the Bill, and the record industry’s support of it, Hall raises two of the most common concerns with three-strikes-based anti-piracy systems – that tracking all file-sharing activity contravenes European-level privacy rights, and that those accused of file-sharing will not have a fair opportunity to appeal piracy allegations levelled against them.

He also expresses concerns regarding the reliability of the record industry’s data on file-sharing activity, and questions whether the major record companies have been as quick to embrace new digital services as they claim, noting that as of last summer EMI was yet to provide its content to Beatport, despite it being an established market leader in dance music downloads.

Finally he expresses the concern put forward by some in the artist and management community that three-strikes legislation and file-sharer net suspensions will simply make more file-sharers employ clever technologies that mask their online activity, utilising the so called “hidden web”. If you want to know more about that, and have some time to spare, there’s a lengthy put interesting Guardian article on the subject at this URL:

Also like some in the artist and management community, Hall advocates the record industry looking into an ‘inclusive’ licensing model for the internet, basically treating the net like radio and licensing music to all through collecting societies. He reckons the record industry should spend more time investigating that sort of system, rather than lobbying Mandelson to rush through more draconian copyright rules.

In his resignation letter, Hall notes: “At the turn of the 20th Century, when music publishers were faced with technological improvements impinging on their business models (eg pianolas and gramophones eating substantially into sheet music sales), they came up with mechanical licensing. They didn’t seek to penalise those who had bought or used these ‘new machines’. Perhaps we need to take a lesson from their book?”