Independent Film Company Responds To BERR Consultation

This week the latest news in the Digital Britain debate caused a wave of protests as it was revealed the government is considering disconnecting Internet users on allegations of copyright infringement. TorrentFreak caught up with a British independent film company to gauge their response to the news.

Monaghan Media is an independent film company from Manchester, England. They produce films, shorts and other media. They also assist others in the industry by developing ideas and offering production advice and are currently providing graphics for our very own TorrentFreak TV.

James Monaghan from the company has recently taken part in the BERR consultation on file-sharing so has been watching this week’s developments closely. The government has set a deadline for responses to its plans (which include disconnecting alleged file-sharers from the Internet) of 29th September and, like many others, James has responded to the new statement by sending his thoughts in to the consultation. His feelings will resonate with many TorrentFreak readers. Here they are in full;

Monaghan Media Response To Latest BERR Statement

There are an estimated 7 million file-sharers (your figures) in the UK, and you want to reduce that number by 70%. 70% is 4.9 million. A fair trial is fundamental to democracy. To fairly prosecute 4.9 million citizens is an optimistic suggestion when currently Her Majesty’s Court System holds 200,000 criminal cases per year. This would suggest it is going to take 25 years to reduce file-sharing by 70%. This is only dealing with the 70% of today’s file-sharing with no regard to the expected increase of file-sharing. Research suggests that the number of file-sharers increases every day, 63% of people aged 14-24 now admit file-sharing, with 83% of those file-sharing every day.

To prosecute 4.9million people you will also need evidence. No evidence exists. Anywhere.

The ‘evidence’ championed by the failing sector of the media industry – the physical distribution sector – has been proven time and time again to be incredibly flawed. I refer here to the elderly couple who the copyright industry began legal proceedings against for downloading hardcore gay nazi pornographic film ‘Army Fuckers’ (1) among others. I also refer to the law firm Davenport-Lyons, who sent out 15,000 letters telling people to pay a small ‘fine’ (usually about £600) and they’d make a lawsuit against them (for file-sharing) go away. This is what is known as ‘extortion’.

Luckily for the consumers, and all of those of us who enjoy freedom from criminals, Davenport-Lyons were quickly picked up by BBC’s Watchdog program, and promptly disappeared.

I note though, that in today’s (25th August 2009) response, you don’t mention a fair trial. In fact you don’t mention any opportunity for those accused with this flawed and faulty evidence to defend themselves. Which rather gives the impression that there will be no opportunity for the accused to defend themselves. What you do say is this:

“…the previous proposals, whilst robust, would take an unacceptable amount of time to complete in a situation that calls for urgent action…”

So what you’ve stated, is that it is impossible for your draconian anti-file-sharing measures to be implemented fairly. Which is correct. What this means, is that this route of anti-file-sharing legislation, the ‘criminalise-7-million-of-your-citizens’ route is wholly unfeasible, impossible to implement without massive cost to the tax-payer, and impossible to implement without massive damage to the progress of the UK’s creative industries. What this does not mean is that instead of fair trials and the assumption that the accused are innocent until proven guilty, everyone should be presumed guilty until they are proven innocent. This is perverse as the accused would not then have the opportunity to be proven innocent.

In my previous contribution to this consultation, I briefly touched upon the fact that the industry has never been able to show any loss, financial or otherwise, has been caused by file-sharing. I’ve gone into a little more detail here, which shows, with numbers, evidence, and references, (rather than the usual hearsay provided by the industry) to show that there isn’t a financial loss to any of the most downloaded films this year (so far).

You’ll note that all of the top ten most downloaded films so far this year (3) are all incredible commercial successes, each making hundreds of millions of pounds. Watchmen, the most downloaded film with 16.9 million illegal downloads, still made $185,248,060. How can anyone argue that file-sharing has caused it a financial loss? Benjamin Button was the second most downloaded film so far, being downloaded 13.1 million times illegally. It made $332,860,689. A financial loss? I think not.

What we are seeing here, is the end of one type of business: the physical distribution of digital products. We are in a world where DVDs are old technology, in less than ten years Blu-ray disks will go the same way as LPs, as tape cassettes, as VHS tapes, and as DVDs. The internet however, has outlived the DVD. And it will outlive the Blu-ray disk. And it will outlive whatever format ‘succeeds’ the Blu-ray disk. The internet is here to stay. What we are seeing in the Creative Industry is a very small sector (distribution), which makes massive money from a system which is made redundant by the internet.

It is not the responsibility of the government, of the ISPs to prop up a failing business. If a business is failing, it is the responsibility of that business to look at itself, at its actions and rethink its operations in order to save itself.

It is wholly unfeasible to enforce any rule against filesharers, and impossible, literally impossible to enforce according to law.

I reiterate the statement I made in my first contribution to this consultation, the majority of my audiences watch my films over the BitTorrent system, a system so revolutionarily brilliant that it means I, an independent film-maker, can distribute a film in full High Definition to hundreds of millions of viewers with absolutely no cost incurred to me, where normally global film distribution costs several tens of millions of pounds. I think it is acceptable to say then, that my company and I are at the forefront of the industry.

As someone who uses file-sharing systems, not only to gain access to media which I never could’ve before, but also to distribute my own contributions to the UK’s Creative Industry, I am utterly shocked and appalled by the lengths to which your government will go to make my audiences, my peers and myself criminals.

This is not the end of the creative industry. I can say this with great confidence, as someone working in the industry. The industry is currently undergoing a change, a natural change, a change that it must undergo. Although this is not the end of the creative industry, it is the end of a disgusting sector of the industry which has been a parasite on the industry for the past half-century, milking it for as much money as it can, promoting false inflation of the rest of the industry only to increase its own profits.

The criminals here are not the teenagers downloading films and music, but the global corporations that extort money from artists and consumers alike, and who operate in a manner not unfamiliar with sinister global criminal networks.

It is the remit of democratically elected Government to protect the citizens, film-makers, and business-owners from the failing business model which threatens freedom, civil liberty, and creative business’ economic future.

Finally, I take this quote from your statement today:

“…As ever we would need to ensure any such measure fully complied with both UK and EU legislation…”

Disconnecting people from the internet does not fully comply with EU legislation. In fact it directly contravenes EU legislation. I am referring to amendment 138/46 which was adopted on the 6th May 2009 in response to French attempts to implement a system almost exactly the same as the one proposed here. A system which was declared unconstitutional by the French High Court. You will be aware that amendment 138/46 declared that access to the internet was a fundamental human right.

Not only do your proposals directly contravene European Law, but the certainty of wrongful sanctions being taken against citizens opens the government up to legal action. The fact that cutting off an entire household’s internet punishes everyone in that household and not just the ‘accused file-sharer’ is near-certain to breach the government’s ‘Every Child Matters’ directive where children are punished for others’ actions. The probability of cutting off the internet of those who need the internet to survive, the long-term sick, for example, or the disabled, further opens up the government to attack.

Is this the route that my government wants to pursue? Or should the government perhaps listen to its’ citizens’ outrage and stop neglecting them in favour of the power and massive wealth offered by the global corporations who’s only motivation is furthering said power and wealth?

Yours faithfully,
James Monaghan

Monaghan Media

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