Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The TUC used to be portrayed as a carthorse

It would be unfair to charcterise the Europe-wide survey being promoted in the UK by the Trades Union Congress as effectively a load of waffle-iron run-off, but it is:

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said the study stresses that "the growth of unauthorised filesharing, downloading and streaming of copyrighted works and recorded performances is a major threat to the creative industries in terms of loss of employment and revenues".

"The scale of the problem is truly frightening now – let alone in the future if no firm actions against illegal filesharing are taken. If there was ever the proof needed to demonstrate why the Digital Economy Bill is imperative for the protection of our creative industries, this report is it."

Except it's not "truly frightening now", is it? For an industry which isn't actually selling anything essential [not in the food and shelter sense] and whose stuff is so easy to get without paying, the music business is doing pretty well - especially what with the way the general economy has been. Sony Music is happy to spend millions on buying up the Michael Jackson back catalogue. There's money to fly Dappy to America. Admittedly, both those thoughts frighten me, but not in the way you mean.

Let's fling some figures around, though, shall we?
Across the EU, as many as 1.2m jobs are in jeopardy as piracy looks set to strip more than €240bn (£218bn) in revenues from the creative industries by 2015, unless regulators can stem the flow. In 2008, the creative industries contributed €860bn to the EU's GDP – almost 7% – and it employs 6.5% of the EU workforce, or 14 million people.

It's also expected that as many as sixty million kittens might be crushed under steamrollers driven by online pirates. "They'll be laughing as they roll forward" warned the TUC, "laughing as the kittens get squished."

Of course, there's not really any reason to assume that the lack of an ever-more-tightened copyright regime would lead to steamrollers heading out over kittens, but the contention is about as strong as the figures being offered here. No attempt is made to prove the vital contention that downloading a thing represents the loss of any revenue at all; no explanation of what would happen to that £218billion pounds if it isn't being spent on buying Dollshouse on DVD or Climie Fisher CDs.

In fact, even if the survey had any basis in fact, you might argue that it'd be better for our economy if people spent the money that would otherwise be jammed away in Simon Cowell's back pocket or servicing EMI's massive debt with an American bank on, say, solar panels or eating out. Imagine if that £218bn "lost" to the creative industries found its way into the manufacturing industry.

If only it wasn't a non-existent pile of cash. Imagine the stuff we could do with it.

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