News Corp Europe and Asia boss James Murdoch has called for new ways to be found of enforcing copyright in the digital age.
He was speaking at Stationer’s Hall in London on Monday at one of a series of events organised by the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspapermakers to mark 300 years of copyright.
The Statute of Anne in 1710 brought the world copyright “for the encouragement of learned men to compose and write useful books”, he noted.
Here’s an extract from his speech:
Only a few months ago, we launched a little revolution in the newspaper business: we stopped giving away our journalism for free online and started asking readers to pay a fair price for The Times and Sunday Times, whether they’re reading it in print or on screen. And guess what – for the first time in 225 years we are selling copies of the Times on something other than paper – we’ve racked up over 100,000 sales of our digital editions. Readership of The Times is now growing. And just last week, Eureka, the science and environment magazine of the Times, became the No.1 paid app on iTunes in the UK.
The practical application of copyright in this brave online world has just begun. We have a long way to go. But we are delivering on the promise of creating a new business model for news that works in print, online, on the iPad and kindle and we are supporting the development of a diverse and rich culture.
So, we believe that those who proclaim that content has no value in the internet age are either wrong, self-interested or both.
Whatever their motives, their arguments certainly provide air cover for those with much less noble intentions.
A huge amount of the capacity now available on the internet is used to distribute things without the permission of their creators, let alone with any payment to them.
In the first quarter of this year alone, there were 190 million downloads of Hollywood content in just 20 countries.
You can add to that substantial illegal web streaming, where viewers watch without downloading. The numbers continue to show that well over half of all internet traffic consists of illegal file sharing and other forms of piracy.
This is not the stuff of a few students outwitting the system. It is deliberate and on an industrial scale.
As I said earlier, many companies have built businesses on the ability to search, index, and distribute copyrighted material without paying a fair price to those who have created that material in the first place.
Together, by taking action and valuing creativity, we can change things for the better, as society has done before at times of technological change. We need to find new ways of managing copyright that go with the grain of technology rather than falling back on cross-grained attempts in last ditch attempt to maintain a vanishing status quo.