Google Big Tent 2012: Copyright in the Digital Age

Google’s second annual Big Tent event passes in style at the 5* hotel, The Grove in Watford. The event took place on Wednesday 23rd May. The event covered lots of key media topics which are very current in the world of media today. But just focusing on one, Copyright in the digital age, you can begin to get a feel for the event.

Written by Alex Maidment

Copyright is an interesting topic which circulates the world of media everyday as thousands of people illegally download things through the internet. This controversial topic was discussed by four panel members: Graham Lineham, TV Writer, known for his involvement in Father Ted and the IT Crowd, Brian Message, Chairman of MMF, Spencer Hyman, CEO and founder of Artfinder, and Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive of BPI. The discussion was moderated by Channel 4 News’ Sarah Smith.

Sarah started the discussion of by stating that in 2008, forty billion illegal music downloads took place, which was ninety-five percent of music downloads for the year. This began the argument that creative industries cannot make money if people are downloading the stuff for free. Graham Lineham was first to take the lime-light on the subject by jokingly saying that despite all the illegal downloads, he didn’t see a drop in his pay. All jokes aside, he then talked about how when consumers asked for cheaper music, producers said ‘no’. Now the consumers are being asked to stop pirating products, it is the consumers turn to say ‘no’.

The discussion moved on to the idea that rather than trying to stop privacy, we need to find good new ways of getting the product to the consumer, quickly and effectively. Some of the panel said that we’re not far off turning a corner to stop piracy, it is just how to do it which needs thinking over.

The discussion leaped forward another step by saying that copyright is an odd concept in the digital age as it was originally created for print, but is now facing a new challenge of protecting digital products. The internet is a powerful tool and has so much more to it, it should be used for communicating, not illegally downloading.

It was mentioned that search engines should be more important and have more of an impact on stopping piracy. How exactly  could search engines help? The search engine, such as Google, should bring up all the legal results for what you have searched, not the illegal ones. If you search ‘music downloads’ into a search engine, you might get lots of illegal sites and instead these should at least be shown after the legal sites.

It was noted towards the end of the Copyright discussion that record labels are losing revenue because of piracy. However, distributors of music are still doing well whilst the creators of the product are losing out.

So clearly piracy is a terrible thing for the creative industries, but the problem is how to stop piracy. Consumers are saying no when asked to stop, so what can we do about it? Maybe we need some sort of new copyright laws, just for digital mediums. What happens next, only time will tell.

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