Tuesday, January 12, 2010

299 proposed amendements to the Digital Economy Bill

Currently chuntering through committee the House Of Lords, the Digital Economy Bill has attracted nearly 300 amendments of varying quality. Most notably is an attempt to value infringement:

[One of Lord Lucas'] proposal would validate the belief of some record labels and movie studios that one illegally downloaded song or film amounts to one lost sale. Amendment 105 states that the process by which copyright holders would alert ISPs to alleged piracy should “value ... an infringement on the basis of the benefit that would have accrued to the owner had the copyright material been legally acquired from an ordinary internet retailer”.

Given that it's virtually impossible to prove that something you've uploaded has been downloaded at all, this kind of implies - should the ammendment stand and the bill pass - that record labels will find themselves chasing the odd 79pence here and there.

There's more, though:
—Illegal downloads of as-yet-unreleased material (ie. leaked albums or films) would be subject to a 10x valuation.
—A zero valuation must be used if the material has been illegally downloaded in a format the copyright holder has not made available legally

That's quite a radical proposal: the idea that simply by using a different format, the cost of the losses would be reduced to zero is fascinating. You could argue, though, these clauses cancel each other out - has an unreleased album (ten times valuation) actually been made available in any format? (zero times valuation).


Anonymous said...

"A zero valuation must be used if the material has been illegally downloaded in a format the copyright holder has not made available legally"

Off the top of my head (and maybe I'm misreading this) but the worry with this is a marketplace full of extremely poor quality releases (in terms of sound quality) as record labels attempt to quickly put everything up to stop people sharing old out-of-print records taken from vinyl. On the one hand, great for availability and choice but, on the other hand, not exactly persuading a careful approach. Certainly, there are albums I've downloaded from obscure, completely forgotten acts 40 years ago that only sold about four copies but have been carefully uploaded by some dedicated fan in a way that wouldn't be worth the effort for some labels. It isn't unimaginable that some fans could do better quality rips than the record labels could. Interestingly, it also looks like it would force bands like The Beatles to release stuff online if they want to pursue illegal downloaders. Fair enough for people wanting to buy that kind of thing but a bit unfair for those bands who don't really want to release online (e.g. the limited edition incentive-to-buy 7" with vinyl-only b-side).

Unknown said...

The word 'format' is entirely misplaced there.

If all downloads shifted to OGG Vorbis files, then they have zero value??

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

@anonymous (and, actually, @Rick)
What counts as a format is key, I think: if ogg files count, as anon suggests, there's every chance the labels might swamp the market. But could you argue, say, that 128kbps mp3s are different from 256kbps mp3s?

As for the risk that 7"-only acts would be forced into releasing things online - what happens now, anyway, is that these limited editions will turn up digitised and shared. I guess most bands who only officially release on 7" aren't expecting to make a massive income off the track, and so the presence of digital versions will not worry them - in the way that they don't worry them now.

Anonymous said...


My computer screen is now covered in red pen thanks to you (and my crippling OCD).

Simon Hayes Budgen said...


I have amended. Ammended. I will try to make amends.


Thank you, your article is very good

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