Friday, 23 January 2009

Taxpayers' Bung to Music Majors: Doom For Net Neutrality

Another bail out, another Quango. This time New Labour wants the taxpayer to pay for the failure of the jaded business models of the music moguls via a new rights agency to combat internet piracy, and will regulate to give them special rights to collect internet users' data.

There is no justification for this, and it is no melodramatic exaggeration to say that the direct consequence is the end of a neutral internet. Claims by content providers that they'll lose £1bn in the next 5 years are disingenuous - and it's a paltry sum given what's at stake. In its consultation on proposals to combat illicit file-sharing, BERR was told that, in spite of these "losses", online music sales are growing at 28% pa. So the industry is doing just fine, and it's no surprise that BERR received little support for its proposals. Accordingly, this focus on piracy can only be an excuse for content providers and internet service providers to lobby for a statutory right to monitor, and in due course charge for, everything we do online - whether we're "pirates" or not. BERR couldn't deliver, so now Lord Carter is to give it a try.

Apart from being another example of this government's entrenched commitment to public sector largesse, is this also some kind of parting favour to New Labour luvvies? Or is it, like the approval of Heathrow's third runway, perhaps an attempt to leave the Tories in a position where to unwind such travesties they must oppose Big Business?

Who knows, but sooner or later this particular cheque has got to bounce.

Thanks to Chris for the alert.

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