Whatever other differences we might have, the fundamental disagreement between Bernie Corbett and me can be boiled down to one essential point. He thinks it is wise to disconnect people from the Internet if they are suspected of infringing copyright. I think it is stupid.

Bernie characterises those who disagree with him as thinking of disconnection as something that is wrong, a breach of a human right. I, however, think it’s stupid, backwards, foolish, boneheaded, counter-productive, not-thought-through. Here’s why:

The argument runs that, in the 21st century, people are consuming more and more of their media online. Some people consume some media illegally. Therefore we should stop them, and the people with whom they share an Internet connection, being online.

This fails to take into account the fact that a family who has been disconnected because someone has infringed copyright aren’t doing the following. They aren’t downloading TV or songs from iTunes. They aren’t buying books or DVDs from Amazon. They are not listening to songs on Spotify. They aren’t watching ad-supported videos or reading blogs which are supported by GoogleAds. They aren’t bumping up viewing figures through iPlayer, 4OD or ITV.com. They aren’t downloading free samples of the things creators make to advertise what they are making. They aren’t watching movie trailers. They aren’t emailing each other links to exciting and interesting things they have found. They aren’t clicking the ‘donate’ button on my or anyone else’s website. In short, they aren’t consuming media any more.

So creators cannot make money from them any more.

In a world where more and more is consumed (and paid for) online, preventing people consuming (and paying for) things online is foolish, backwards, all of the things I said above…

Internet disconnection works directly against writers, musicians and artists being able to get their works in front of audiences, and paying audiences. In the last five years a number of models have emerged for ‘monetising content’ (ugh!) At present, the residuals and tips and ad revenues make up a small but growing part of many creators’ incomes, and more sophisticated models are being developed.

Reducing the number of people who have access to my work is not the same as working on my behalf, Bernie.

In general the argument seems to be: disconnection will significantly reduce piracy; reduced piracy will lead to significantly greater revenues for media companies; greater revenues for media companies will lead to their commissioning significantly more things. These are all accepted at face value (without evidence) by supporters of the Bill. I don’t think a convincing case has been made that any of the above is true.

On the other hand it is definitely true that reducing the number of people with access to the Internet reduces the size of the market for (some of) the things I make. It certainly impedes them finding my work, or my finding them.

It’s only if you accept all of the contentious industry-wisdom syllogism above that you can think disconnection will be effective, fair, or wise. I don’t. I believe it is profoundly stupid.

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