Not my words but those of Mr. John Lovelock, Chief Executive of FAST commenting on the permission granted to BT and TalkTalk to apply for a judicial review in respect of the Digital Economy Act 2010 (see BT and TalkTalk win judicial review of Digital Economy Act on all four grounds,” 13 Nov 2010).
The context in which those words appeared followed a reference to an earlier Guardian report on the activities of ACS Solicitors, DigiRights Solutions and Gallant MacMillan (“ACS:Law gets more of copyright fines than rights holders” 5 Oct 2010). Mr. Lovelock is reported to have said:
“”We know that when people are challenged, they change their behaviour. An inevitable part of the legislative framework must discourage people from taking the illicit route. At this time of economic pressure it is great news for the country too, since more legitimate sales will mean more tax revenue and more workers in employment – everyone wins.”
Well people don’t take kindly to being challenged, Mr. Lovelock, and they have a vote. My sparring partner yesterday is a local politician of some influence in one of the parties that now forms your government. I came across her a couple of months ago in a debate on Intellectual Property and the ICT Industry that was chaired by her local MP, one of the rising stars of the governing Coalition. Sarah Brown is clearly someone who knows what she is talking about. She was once employed in the software industry and apparently did very well there. Being elected to Cambridge City Council, she is likely to be sensitive to the thinking the man or woman on the Granchester omnibus.
Brown drew an analogy between the birth of the Pirate Party and the birth of the Green Movement. While I happen to think that’s nonsense the policy of intellectual property law is and has always been to strike a balance between several conflicting public interests of which promoting innovation is only one. Others include ensuring competition – never forget that The Statute of Monopolies 1623 the first patent legislation in the common law world was actually a competition statute – and safeguarding the interests of consumers.
Lobbyists like Mr. Lovelock would be very well advised to pipe down lest the British public persuade their elected representatives that we have struck the balance in the wrong place.