PACT’s John McVay

We need anti-piracy measures now not later… says Pact chief executive John McVay

After many years of lobbying, the issue of piracy has gained traction with the UK Government and, according to the Digital Britain report announced last week, new measures will be introduced in an attempt to stamp it out. Ofcom, the regulator, will get new duties and powers, with backstop powers to apply various technical measures such as reducing bandwidth or blocking websites that the ISPs will have to use should offenders persist.

While it is a step in the right direction, how much of a difference would it really make in the short term?

Probably not a lot. Piracy is a widespread problem that is happening now – contributing to job losses and increasing the financial pressure on already challenged TV, music and film industries.

The government has stated in their report that ISPs must cut illegal file sharing on their networks by 70% within a year from the development of a new industry code to be agreed between rights owners and the ISPs. Yet all these measures require consultation, so the process of getting it onto the statute and then actually implementing it will take about two years or more – which is too long. In those two years even more value from intellectual property will have been lost, while at the same time, access to broadband will have increased, meaning even more piracy. The measures to combat piracy and increase media literacy amongst consumers must go hand in hand with increased access, not after it.

What would be more effective is for Ofcom to begin the process of drafting the code and getting agreement between ISPs and rights owners now. We know now what we have to do and the processes that will be used, so instead of waiting for the ink to dry on the Queen’s signature on the legislation, Ofcom needs to move this forward. Instead of looking for reasons not to begin what will undoubtedly be a difficult task, it should bring all the parties together and make the start that will convince rights owners that the UK government is serious about tackling piracy, sooner rather than later.

At a recent RTS event, Lord Carter, who led the Digital Britain report, confirmed that he could see no reason why it would not be possible for Ofcom to act now.

Many will say that the ISPs and rights owners are too polarised in their views and respective positions. Pact, for its part, thinks this is defeatist and fails to understand that all parties have compelling reasons to resolve this quickly, and on the way, develop better and more constructive knowledge about how digital Britain is going to develop, and the opportunities it is going to present us all.