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DCMS Creative Industries discussion forum

This entry was added to http://www.reckon.co.uk/headlines-franckblog on 27 June 2005.
Full blog table of contents available at Contents | viewpoint: Franck.

Initial impressions, 27 June 2005

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) recently launched a "discussion forum" to "hear your opinions about any creative industries-related issue or event which you think is important" (in the words of James Purnell MP, Minister for Creative Industries and Tourism).

This sounded of potential interest, so I went to the announcement. Only to find that:

"To participate in the discussion all you have to do is register by sending an email with your name to ciforum@culture.gsi.gov.uk.
You will be registered within the day (or next working day if a weekend) and you will receive a confirmation email with your login details."

I was somewhat taken aback, like OfcomWatch's Russ. It seemed strange to require registration, and even stranger to be unable to register online.

But nevermind, I fired off an e-mail and forgot about it. This was Wednesday 22 June.

I received my password (I think I can say that it is not exactly of the most secure variety) today, Monday 27 June.

So I eagerly went in; only to find that access was denied.

After a bit of poking around it emerged that you need to be using a browser that supports the Microsoft NTLM authentication scheme in order to share your views about creative industries with the minister. I changed browser (it seems to work with both IE and Firefox on Windows, but not with Safari 1.3 on Mac OS X) and carried on to find another copy of the minister's speech, and the promised discussion forum.

By that stage, I was hardly surprised to find that the discussion forum's interface was a pain, with lots of clever dynamic HTML and a few irritating bugs. Funny how everyone else manages to implement a simple solution that just works. But at least it was readable.

I found 18 messages commenting back, mostly well written and sensible, but hardly likely to make a significant difference to Government policy. Most seemed to suggest that the minister should start by reconsidering the apparent Government support for plans to extend copyright on musical recordings to 95 years and for the patentability of software.

I'll probably be back in a week to see whether there is any point to this. But for now, I am left wondering whether this obstacle course of a discussion forum is just a way for DCMS to hit some arbitrary quota for the proportion of DCMS activity that counts as e-Government!

Further thoughts, 25 July 2005

I did get back to this periodically over the past few weeks, and could never find enough inspiration for a follow-up comment. To date, there have 34 replies to the two ministerial questions (with at least one reply that can only be described as spam), but the initial burst of activity on software patents and other allegedly unnecessary restrictions on use of intellectual property seems to have petered out, leaving a few occasional notes on consultation processes and suchlike, which do not really excite me.

Thinking back about it, I suspect that there is a fundamental problem which has barely been scratched arises from the starting point of the ministerial speech: "how can we turn creativity into profits?". Do "we" really want to do that? Is the maximisation of GDP, or profitability, or capital accumulation in the UK, really a useful and relevant objective to use for defining intellectual property rights (aka State-imposed restrictions on creativity)?

The arguments about patents (which are restrictions on developing one's own ideas if someone has had an overlapping idea in the past and claimed patent rights), copyright length (the lengthening of which could create significant practical barriers to re-use of previous creations) and DRM (which risks placing technological barriers and potentially criminal sanctions in the way of the traditional rights of fair use) all seem to involve important freedoms and rights in relation to creativity itself, and it is far from obvious that any of the relevant objectives in this area can just be converted into concepts of profit or capital accumulation.

I accept that it is quite possible that, at least in some circumstances, "turning creativity into profits" is necessary for "us" to achieve worthwhile objectives. But I think that those who wish to use that line of argument should begin by explaining their objectives and their link to profit, rather than take it all as granted.

And I still have no real idea of what the Labour manifesto commitment to "modernise copyright and other forms of protection of intellectual property rights so that they are appropriate for the digital age" really means.

Entry added by Franck Latrémolière to viewpoint: Franck on 27 June 2005, updated on 25 July 2005.

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Last changed by Franck at 7:25 PM on Monday 25 July 2005.

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Reckon Open "DCMS Creative Industries discussion forum | viewpoint: Franck" 2005-07-25T19:25:10