I work with creative and digital agencies and it would’ve taken a foreign holiday to ignore the impending doom around the Digital Economy Bill this week.
In what appears to be a collaboration between Business Secretary Mandelson and Culture Secretary Bradshaw, the Bill expects its second reading on Wednesday 2nd December. Although Guardian journalist Robinson highlights its attempt to support ITV and prepare the radio industry for digital switchover, proposals on illegal file-sharing have caused an unashamed furore.
To give the general gist, content producers (e.g. record labels/film production companies) would have the right to ‘force ISPs to disconnect internet users’ who illegally file share ‘without judicial course’ according to music blogger Helienne Lindvall.
Understandably, companies such as Talktalk proclaimed to the Guardian this will lead to a devolution or split into its component parts Talktalk (the second largest ISP in the UK) and Carphone Warehouse. The estimated cost to the ISP of £2.00 per line to cover the cancellation admin etc. seems like robbing Peter (the digital economy) to pay Paul (the entertainment industry.)
But it’s not just that.
As any PR professional will tell you, New Media makes sharing information all too easy. The phenomenon of ‘Porous Companies’, coined by Phillips and Young in Online Public Relations, suggests that file-sharing sites or even mere emails have made it far easier to leak information than ever before. But often it’s not even deliberate – 15% of employees admitted to sending company information out to the wrong party in a 2004 SurfControl poll.
However, in light of the Digital Economy Bill, special consideration should be given to those PR specialists that operate on behalf of those seeking to protect their intellectual property. The Recording Industry Association of America, for example, had their entire CSR strategy questioned when filing a lawsuit against a 12 year old, underprivileged girl after illegally downloading music in 2003. Lobbyists felt so passionately that an independent group financially recompensed the family for the amount sued.
The RIAA’s Head of Communications was happy to take ‘PR hits’ to get the message understood. However, as Mandelson and Bradshaw share the load amongst the Government, the digital industry and the content producers, they risk the standing of all three.