Wednesday 1 June 2011

Hargreaves: the Gospel according to Google

Professor Ian Hargreaves did a good job for the Welsh Assembly Government with his 2010 report on the creative industries, "The Heart of Digital Wales". In it, he had cited without disapproval Lord Carter's "Digital Britain" agenda, which included "Strong policies to protect intellectual property from piracy".

Something must have happened in the meantime, as the Professor's "Review of Intellectual Property and Growth", published on 18 May 2011, says of online enforcement merely that the "strong online enforcement measures made possible by the Digital Economy Act should be carefully monitored so that the approach can be adjusted in the light of evidence." The sceptical tone of the Review on enforcement is clear. Obviously any "adjustment" of the Act would be in the direction of weakening it, as requested the more hysterical anti-copyright interests, such as TalkTalk (Review submission: "increased enforcement will discourage innovation and growth").

While the Review disparages creative industry statistics as "lobbynomics", the Professor has little time for the evidence his own Review commissioned, such as the PACEC report on licensing in the VoD sector (reporting industry opinion that, e.g., "copyright issues rather than limiting growth had helped to stimulate it"). The Review's executive summary claims that the evidence for damage caused to industry by piracy is conflicting and uncertain, asserting that "[e]stimates of the scale of illegal digital downloads in the UK ranges [sic] between 13 per cent and 65 per cent in two studies published last year." Yet it apppears from the Review's own account of these statistics that he is confusing the number of downloaders with the number of downloads. In fact, repeated surveys in the UK and Germany are remarkably consistent in their estimates of the prevalence of illegal downloading.

All this is worrying for the future implementation of the Graduated Response in the UK, for which the enthusiasm of the coalition Government already seems doubtful.

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