The report by
Mike Weatherley MP (pictured right, centre) was the third (and
final, since he will leave Parliament in 2015) he has prepared
for David Cameron.
Despite being appointed to the
(upaid) role of intellectual property adviser, each report has
focused on copyright. That is not surprising, since it is an
area of IP the former music industry executive knows very well.
But has the insight he has gained as an industry insider made
him too willing to defend industry practices from the
challenges unleashed by the digital revolution?
In a piece Weatherley wrote last
week for Conservative Party blog Conservative Home, the IP
adviser talked about a recent visit he had paid to a
university. While there, he had asked the students present how
many had illegally downloaded music in the past month. Around
90% admitted they had.
Weatherley then asked how many
of these people "thought that they were helping to contribute
to the downfall of our creative industries" - a loaded
question if ever there was one. One third of the students kept
their hands raised.
Weatherley concluded from this
experiment (which he acknowledges was not very scientific) that
"(a) that third just didn't care about the consequences, and
that (b) the other two-thirds hadn't thought through the
But this surely amounts to what
academics would call a false dichotomy. There may be another
explanation: some students may have thought that they were
supporting the band and the industry that goes with it. They
may have known that the money they subsequently spent on
tickets to see the band live, or for a T shirt, or for the
entire album that they bought after hearing one track, would
contribute towards the upkeep of the creative
Of course it is important to
acknowledge the positive impact that IP has for developed
economies, and the disruption that the internet has caused the
creative industries (not least publishing). But it is seems
worth acknowledging that the young people who cut their
technological and creative teeth making mashups and parodying
successful artists, or who can now access more forms of music
than they could ever afford to buy, might yet be the next
generation's world-leading artists.
Weatherly has agreed to an interview with Managing IP before he
leaves office, so we look forward to discussing these questions