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Politician attacks music piracy

The UK government and search engines must do more to fight music piracy and promote legitimate content, Labour MP Harriet Harman said today

Harman, MP for the London constituency of Camberwell and Peckham, is the shadow secretary of state for culture media and sport and deputy leader of the Labour Party.

In a speech at the University of Hertfordshire’s Music Faculty, she said: “Copyright infringement makes it difficult to run a business ‑ especially if you are a small to medium sized business ‑ as so many are in the music industry. You can't run a business effectively if the products you want to sell don’t generate revenue because they are downloaded for free.”

Harman cited statistics indicating that three-quarters of digital music was obtained illegally and that the music industry lost £236 million to piracy last year.

She called on the government to implement the Digital Economy Act and set a timetable for the sending of notification letters. The Act was passed by the previous Labour government, but its implementation has been delayed by challenges from internet service providers.

The government should promote an industry agreement on site blocking, search engine responsibility and digital advertising and encourage users to access legitimate content, she said.

It should also recognise the public policy imperative to protect rights owners, as the US government does: “Currently rights holders feel that they are on their own, that the law is not enforced and the Intellectual Property Office is not on their side. So government must act ‑ gear up enforcement and tackle the fragmentation of the enforcement agencies.”

But the MP said that technology companies also need to act: “If Google and the ad agencies drain the swamp of piracy by removing their financial incentive ‑ online advertising ‑ then we would have a fertile environment in which paid-for content could flourish.”

And she urged the music companies to do more to promote legal services: “They could make more of their catalogue available and support simplification of licensing, such as provision for licensing of orphan works and making it easier for more deals to be struck through a Digital Copyright Exchange.”

The speech is available on her website.

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