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Jobs under threat from counterfeit films trade, warns MP

March 10, 2009 2:52 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

John Barrett highlights the effects of the dodgy DVD trade and illegal file sharing on the British film industry

Edinburgh West MP John Barrett has raised the impact of copyright theft on the UK film industry in a debate in Westminster Hall.

John began by recognising the huge value of the film industry to the country, culturally, creatively and economically. He said that it was the duty of Parliament "to ensure that we react quickly to changes in technology and in the criminal world to ensure that this important industry receives the protection and support that it deserves from its law-makers." In particular, he said, this means ensuring that, "when required, we introduce the legislative changes needed to tackle copyright theft in all its forms."

"In the creative industries, while we see those at the top of the trade on the red carpets and on television, there are many others who struggle to get by. They, too, should have their original work protected by law, so that they can be paid for what they have created; otherwise they will have no financial incentive to carry on."

Describing the creative industries as a "shining light" in the UK economy, he reminded MPs that the industries together generate two million jobs. However, he said, each year, the British audio-visual industry loses about £0.5 billion through copyright theft and the wider economy loses more than £1 billion. According to one major film studio, for every one legitimately downloaded film from the internet, 600 are downloaded from illegal sites. Another report had suggested that 800,000 jobs in the creative industries are at risk as a result of file-sharing.

John said that at present the Crown Prosecution Service were reluctant to prosecute even apparently blatant breaches of the law. He cited one case where an individual had been caught with a camcorder on a bracket on a seat in a cinema, but the CPS still reckoned that there was not enough evidence to prosecute. "We need today legislation whereby taking a camcorder into a cinema to record a film is a criminal offence," said John. This is already the case in a number of other European countries, including France, Italy and Spain. "That would make it much simpler for the police and the authorities to prosecute."

Films are, he said, particularly vulnerable when they are premiered in the UK. "We in the UK are now the No. 1 source of illegal recordings of films in Europe. Sad to say, we have overtaken Russia. That is one title that we should try to lose as quickly as possible."

John also raised the issue of the advance of technology and the role of internet service providers, which is increasing in importance as we move towards a digital age. Illegal peer-to-peer file sharing is expected to increase by 80 per cent. in the next two to three years, he warned.

Read John Barrett's speech in full