Dave Harte: Digital Economy Bill is blow to creative sector
Apr 16 2010 By Dave Harte
Well the Digital Economy Bill finally made it into law and overall it’s a victory for corporate lobbying over social media whingeing – not even the power of a Twitter hashtag could prevent it being pushed through as part of the parliamentary ‘wash-up’ period.
But what does it mean for Birmingham and the West Midlands?
Specifically, what does it mean for our creative industries?
Let’s remind ourselves firstly that the creative sector matters.
It certainly matters in size terms as much as the financial sector and, unlike them, it seems to have survived the recession relatively unscathed.
But relative to some other cities (Manchester, Bristol, Leeds amongst them) we’re punching below our weight. Not in a drastic, ‘let’s not bother then,’ kind of way but enough to ensure we can’t rest on our laurels.
Surely then the measures in the Digital Economy bill to punish those active in copyright theft are just the kind of protectionist stance that our content-producing creatives would welcome.
If a few innocent people get caught in the net whilst copyright-holders go looking for pirates then what of it? We’ve got a fragile creative economy and growing income streams to protect.
Indeed protecting the UK’s creative economy and ensuring we retain creative jobs is why both trade bodies and trade unions were pretty much united in their support of the bill.
But there’s a problem with this protectionist stance.
Along with it comes the chance that any website that has copyrighted material on it could be shut down by the Government.
That might include those sites, like Wikileaks, whose exposés do a useful job of keeping the powerful in check.
Further, the creatives in this region have been at the forefront of thinking up new ways to make money in the digital world; something the powerful corporates who lobbied for the bill seem unable to achieve for themselves.
I’ve no doubt the bill will help shore up aspects of our regional creative economy but it’s also done a decent job of managing to upset an entire generation of internet entrepreneurs and that can’t be good news for either UK plc or for that matter, Birmingham plc.
* Dave Harte is award leader for the MA in Social Media at Birmingham City University.