back to article UK could have flooded world with iPods - Sir Humphrey

Britain could have invented the iPod – if it wasn't for a copyright law that everyone ignores. So says the UK government in a remarkable economic justification of the so-called "Google Review", the Review of IP and Growth led by Ian Hargreaves. The document was written for the government by civil servants at the IPO, part of the …


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  1. Andus McCoatover

    Why does Britain fuc*k up?

    Liquid Crystal Display?

    Jet engine?

    Oil in Saudi Arabia?

    Dear God, why are us British so careless, and the US so careful whith their IP???

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why does Britain...

      Because it's not 'property', it's knowledge. And as such it should be shared. To limit the dissemination of this knowledge is to hold back the progress and advancement of our species.

  2. Jim Hague

    No chilling effect? Really?

    It may be true that no consumer has ever been prosecuted for format shifting. But nevertheless it remains illegal. Are you seriously suggesting that doesn't act as some kind of brake on manufacturers? Like, oh, for example?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Posted right here

      ASA slaps advert for encouraging unlawful format shifting:

      What more evidence of "chilling effect" could you want? Right from this very news source no less.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Posted right here

        That will have done wonders for Brennan's sales :)

        Victimisation is central copyfighters psychology. They need to feel picked on by The Man / The System. It is a seige mentality. The little guy is being oppressed.


        "Kick me again, RIAA. Please!"


        "Dying quango says Britons oppressed by the Man"

        There is no chilling effect, and nobody is oppressing you. It exists in your head, because you prefer it that way.

        1. Don H

          Re: Posted Right Here

          As the Brennan example shows, the main reason that "no-one gets prosecuted for ripping their CDs to their MP3 player" is because there's no money in it. The moment someone with deep enough pockets comes along, the rights holders will be into them. They may or may not win (remember the Diamond Rio case in the USA) but the expense of defending the case is most certainly a "chilling effect" to a startup.

          1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

            Re: Re: Posted Right Here

            Well you don't live here and didn't RTFA. If you assertion is true, Sky would have been sued for the PVR, there would be no tape-to-tape machines etc. CBS vs Amstrad in 1988 cleared that up.

            It is really fascinating to watch people invent chills and threats that don't exist.

            1. The First Dave

              @Andrew O

              CBS vs Amstrad did not clear _everything_ up, think you need to learn the difference between a single case and reliable, repeated legal precedant.

    2. Tony S

      For the moment

      The law is set to change on format shifting (amongst other things) - just have to wait to see if it actually does happen.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Leading the blind

    I have a friend who was in the MoD and his explanation for the lack of leadership from the Ministers is simple: they are stupid and lazy. They don't WANT to know how the department works, they don't care about anything except their next step up the cabinet ladder and even when they do take an interest they rarely have anything to contribute one way or another other than blithering and guessing. And then they're gone after a year or two. They have no qualifications and no rational basis for agreeing with or refuting the civil servants' advice. It's an insane way to run a country.

    Seriously, Andrew, have you not been watching politicians over the last few years? Surely their reactions to the economic crisis and the War on Terror(TM) have cleared away any misconception that these people are pro-active thinkers able to deftly steer the ship of state on to clear waters and new horizons?

    We are a nation - nay, a world - run by idiots without a plan except to listen to advice - from civil servants, special interest groups, "experts", the markets, anything that gives them some fig leaf for their decisions because THEY DON'T HAVE ANY BETTER IDEAS THEMSELVES and that's because their only skills are in getting elected. The vast majority are quite unemployable in any real world capacity. Gordon Brown was chancellor for 10 years yet can barely add up properly. Harold Wilson preached the white-heat of technology but thought a giant spider was following him. Margaret Thatcher approved arms sales to Argentina while they were clearly making threats to invade the Falklands.

    Don't go speechifying about unelected government power until you can tell us where to find anyone we can elect who can do better. Because people who can do, do. Those who can't teach, and those who can't even teach go into politics.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      So true!

      We have a political class who listen to advisers chosen because they agree with and flatter its prejudices. They point to reports from 'think tanks' which think about nothing except how to tell them what they want to hear because that is what they were created to do. They have utter contempt for the concept of public service, yet harangue us with demands that we work for nothing while there is mass unemployment. Although they have never tackled any complex practical task, they assume that politicians MUST know better than health professionals about healthcare, and the police about policing.

      Above all, they can't be TOLD anything:

  4. Annihilator

    "Britain could have invented the iPod"

    Agreed with the article in general, especially the mocking of the idea hardware companies would give consideration to the format-shifting dilemma considering people had been taping from the radio, other cassettes, vinyl and CD for years now.

    Though anyone else a bit bored of the assumption Apple were there first with a hard-disk based mp3 player? Or that it was a purely engineering triumph? The iPod (love it or hate it) worked as an overall solution, without iTunes it's practically worthless to the general consumer.

    From my memory at the time though, it was Archos or Creative that were churning out the first HD based players.

    1. Captain Underpants

      Hmmm. Hmmm, I say.

      Diamond's Rio was the first one I read about, back in 98 - But yes, MP3 players as a replacement for CDs and MiniDisc players only caught on when iTunes came around and established a legal, easy-to-use system for buying digital music and syncing it to a portable player. (Same thing seems to be happening with the iPad to a certain extent).

      The specific examples given in Andrew's article are interesting, but misleading and a case of focusing on something overly specific that doesn't quite represent the wider situation. If I were looking to invest money in a product or service which could, potentially, be deemed illegal under old laws, and my lawyer said "no, it's fine, nobody's ever been done for it" I'd be getting a new lawyer - because if there are no past cases establishing a definitive and specifically-applicable precedent, and the law says you're in the wrong, the smart money doesn't bet against the law. Just look at the Extreme Porn act FFS - pirate dvd sellers on the high street were getting busted using that act because it turned out to be more convenient to do them for selling DVDs depicting bestiality than doing them for being involved in copyright infringement!

      I highly doubt that this is the only factor influencing the UK's economic development in terms of creating new technologies, but it's hardly a negligible one. How many companies would have taken the risk involved in creating something like iTunes when the music industry was still in denial about public desire to have digital music (and therefore unwilling to licence their library for sale through such services)?

      1. Annihilator

        @ Captain Underpants

        The Rio were flash based though, I'm talking HD-based :-) Though I did love them - had a Rio 500 myself (64MB onboard, with SmartMedia expansion!)

        Just found a pic of it and instantly gave me a rush of nostalgia - wish I still had it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          First HDD personal music player

          Was the compaq/hanGo Personal Jukebox. 1999. Development started in 1998 so psion would have been struggling to produce "the first hard-disk MP3 player" if it "was approached in 1999 with a clever design for a digital music player".

          1. Jerome 0

            The iPod?

            "No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame."

            1. Pypes
              Thumb Up


              God I miss my zen nomad. 20 gig, came pretty close to it's stated 24 hour battery life and was built like a tank. Still the best MP3 player I've ever owned.

      2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Hmmm. Hmmm, I say.

        As factors go, it's not even "negligible", it's non-existent. The High Court ruling was quite clear, and established the liabilities.

        1. Captain Underpants


          As is evident from my previus post, I disagree.

          It may be established that manufacturers of relevant equipment wouldn't get themselves sued for producing such equipment, but that's not the only issue.

          You acknowledge that the iPod only significantly took off when the iTunes Store launched, providing a clear and obvious link between easily getting legitimate digital media from one central repository and syncing that painlessly to a portable player. Apple's success in doing this was key in driving wider take-up of the iPod as a portable player, and given the UK's comparative backwardness when it comes to digital media services it's not difficult to see that there are very few companies in the UK that would have been both in a position to negotiate that kind of agreement and invest in the R&D required to design a winning device (hell, even just investing in the R&D to design a non-shit player, based on other comments here).

          If you remove the idea of building a media store to drive wider uptake of the device, you run into the issue that arose with the JB7, where in order to encourage people to buy the machine you have to encourage widespread behaviour that is technically illegal.

          The fact that no case had ever been pursued in that manner is irrelevant - the behaviour involved is deemed to be against the law, and therefore your hopes of selling such a device (to play content that at the time couldn't be bought easily and couldn't legally be created at home) wouldn't have been particularly good. No bugger wants to find himself the star of the test case that ends up establishing a precedent that everyone else said was unlikely, and unfortunately there's always going to be a first person tried under any law. You've only got to look at the uses of the Extreme Porn law (a more effective way of hounding pirate dvd sellers through their more colourful pirated pr0n) to see this.

      3. Aitor 1

        Before that

        You have to remember that Iriver nade several of the first Rio players.

        As for the laws deterring uk electronic companies, I agree. It would not stop a music player, but the kind of ecosystem that Apple has built, is very difficult / risky in UK, ( I knwok, Apple sells in UK, but it was to risky back then).

        As for Apple being the first.. of course it wasn't. It wasn't even from the "second wave".. they just liked the ideas other people had, and put it all together in a nice, slick box.... as usual.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Before that

          "but the kind of ecosystem that Apple has built, is very difficult / risky in UK"

          The UK has more services than anyone else. The music industry needs to experiment much more, but the ones you describe are plentiful.

          Liability for manufacturers was clarified in Amstrad vs CBS in 1988.

    2. Nigel Hamlin

      iPod without iTunes


      "The iPod (love it or hate it) worked as an overall solution, without iTunes it's practically worthless to the general consumer."

      I've heard this said so many times, but I just don't get it. My 80G iPod has ~10,000 tracks on it, totalling more than 50 GB and I think maybe there's just three tracks on it that came from iTunes - and those are videos.

      I fully concur that iTunes and the Store have been a major factor in the global success that Apple has achieved, but to refer to the iPod as "practically worthless" without them is a gross overstatement. It's an entirely functional device in its own right.

    3. Nigel Hamlin

      iPod without iTunes?


      "The iPod (love it or hate it) worked as an overall solution, without iTunes it's practically worthless to the general consumer."

      I've heard this said so many times, but I just don't get it. My 80G iPod has ~10,000 tracks on it, totalling more than 50 GB and I think maybe there's just three tracks on it that came from iTunes - and those are videos.

      I fully concur that iTunes and the Store have been a major factor in the global success that Apple has achieved, but to refer to the iPod as "practically worthless" without them is a gross overstatement. It's an entirely functional device in its own right.

  5. John Ruddy

    Gone native

    You only have to look at Yes Minister to realise this is EXACTLY what the civil service wants - and has wanted for decades.

  6. Tony Lock
    Big Brother

    Yes Minister Revisited

    The Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister series covered the non-elected government quite accurately back in the eighties and nothing has changed since.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      "nothing has changed since."

      We have a government which nobody voted for, implementing policies which nobody was led to expect, and the "representative democracy" in which we live has twenty odd millionaires in a Cabinet of thirty or so people. That's representative?

      So maybe one or two details have changed.

  7. smudge

    So he doesn't have a Brennan JB7, then

    The minister has to pick up just about any magazine these days to find an advert for the Brennan JB7, a non-portable format-shifting hard disk player which is functionally the equivalent of the iPod. And it's a British-developed product.

    The more recent ads have included a statement saying that they have been asked to point out that format-shifting is technically illegal. But they also point out that no one has ever been prosecuted for it.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    A couple of facts to get in the way of your opinion

    Firstly, the reason why no-one in the UK has ever been sued for home-taping a radio broadcast is that it is not copyright infringement, in the same way as recording television programmes is not either. It might, however, be copyright infringement to record content streamed over the Internet, which is arguably the modern equivalent.

    Secondly, although no consumers have been prosecuted for format shifting, plenty of people selling pirated recordings have been. Therein lies the rub - ripping a single CD for private use is not sufficient to constitute a crime, so the police won't be interested, and it's not economically viable for the record companies to sue consumers for civil recovery, as even if the record companies succeed, they suffer minimal damage from each individual.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      home-taping a radio broadcast

      is permitted for personal use. BBC allow you to download podcasts from the internet for personal use. iPlayer, etc., permits you to review previous content. Recording for personal use may be an infringement - but probably wouldn't be chased down. If you want to use them for any other purpose, education included, then you need a licence. The BBC, and probably most other broadcasters, wouldn't probably worry about most education but the performing rights society do chase down people who infringe music broadcast at work.

      Correction on the above is welcome.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        BBC permissions

        This is negotiated into the contract when the work is commissioned.

        Modern productions have clauses in the contract between the BBC (and ITV and Channel 4) and the producing company (which is almost certainly not the broadcaster), and the actors, which specifically allow the content to be available for a limited amount of time on a view-on-demand service such as iPlayer, as well as having repeat rights. This has been the case for most UK produced programs for many years now, but often does not include foreign produced material (for instance Torchwood Miracle Day, which is NOT on iPlayer when I last checked).

        This is also why some programs are available as unlimited podcasts (very liberal contracts, and probably only on things that have little ongoing commercial value, like news coverage and topical documentary programs), and some are only available for a limited amount of time, where there may be money to be made on pay-for-view or DVD sales.

        But archive material is a bit different. You quite often find old programs being repeated on the BBC, both radio and television, which do not find their way onto iPlayer. This is because in the original production contracts, and the contracts with the actors, there were clauses for repeat broadcasts, but not for distribution using other means (and this includes DVD, CD and tape for very old series). As these were not things considered when the contracts were drawn up (why should they be, nobody thought such things would be possible), the lawyers tread very carefully to avoid the possibility of future loss of royalties law suites.

        In order to make such material available through things like iPlayer (at least before the copyright expires), it is necessary to get agreement from the production company, and all of the actors, or in the case of a dead actor, representatives of their estate, to allow the material to appear on formats not considered when the original contracts was drawn up.

        This can prove very difficult for the older material, which is very unfortunate for us the viewer, preventing some programmes from being available on DVD or on video-on-demand sites.

        As an aside, as different countries have different copyright and royalty rules, this won't necessarily be the case for all countries.

        Oh well. Thank goodness for YouTube, which appears to have a very liberal attitude towards copyright, at least until challenged.

  9. Magnus_Pym

    What do our elected officials do?

    "I know of one Cabinet member who estimates that only four of his 22 colleagues actually lead their departments: the rest just represent the views of their officials to Cabinet and Prime Minister."

    MPs are only there as sock puppets to the cabinet and the cabinet sock puppets to the party. If the party moguls have no official bollocks to push then the MPs don't have anything to say. They just flap their mouths like guppies. Sack the lot of them. It wouldn't make politics any better but at least it would be a cheaper way to fuck everything up.

  10. MrBob

    Not just Psion sniffing around MP3 players

    A long-gone and mostly forgotten British company that did launch a hard-drive MP3 player before the iPod: Memory Corporation.

    And yes, it _was_ too early, the market _wasn't_ ready - oh, and it was a bit crap. Good call from Psion, I'd say.

  11. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    UK's technology record

    I think that the UK's (relatively) poor technology record is the failure to invest in it. In Cambridge, there are a lot of companies doing tech, and getting investment there is OK, but in lots of other places, the banks or others will not lend. The UK has become more about finacial markets (gambling the money in the stock market, rather than investing it in technology).

    It seems strange to me that they won't invest in anything ultil it is planned to the last atom and has a risk factor of 0.0001%, but betting millions in buying/selling currencies/bonds, etc. doesn't even turn heads.

    The UK certainly has people who a bright enough to engineer the products, certainly there are people with the right ideas of what to engineer, it just doesn't seem to happen to the same degree as in other places.

  12. Eddie Edwards


    Andrew, the first hard-disk MP3 player WAS British.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      IT Angle

      Re: Heh

      I was going to mention Empeg, too. Of course, if it's not Psion or Symbian or something that strengthens the pillars of some nascent myth or other then it didn't happen, obviously.

      I'll concede that the reason it didn't become more popular might have been related to the usual dynamics of British business, and riding the American corporate bandwagon (the UK always had a fetish for "making it in the US" and a sense of inferiority) worked out even more poorly than, say, Computer Concepts' tie up with Corel.

      As for the legal environment not encouraging such business models, others have already explained that it still isn't conducive to advertise such products, at least if you're not a big corporation. I bet that's a significant reason why the Empeg people sold out rather than making a go of it.

  13. kissingthecarpet

    Shouldn't the last sentence be

    "Britain's unelected government appears to be more powerful than its elected one. They both don't half come out with some rubbish."

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No investment - no surprise

    Technology development in the UK doesn't attract investment. I don't know why exactly - perhaps investors are looking for the quick/easy money, or perhaps there's more to be made playing with banking and the stock market. I sought investment at one point and was told by all advisors - including Business Link - that the odds of obtaining it were vanishingly small. And UK business in general spurns quality developers - the thinking seems to be, "the cheaper, the better", so there is little incentive for young people to invest their time and effort in IT either. It makes me feel very cynical when I hear politicians talk about the UK becoming a "technology leader" when their actions are pushing us in the opposite direction.

  15. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Patent costs

    Patent costs are also sky high here.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    I may be wrong

    Re: "But as we've seen, no attempt has ever been made to prosecute anyone for home-taping a radio broadcast"

    I may be wrong, but doesn't that fall under the same category as using a VCR to record a live broadcast, which has specific exemptions for that very purpose? (I realise that if the exemption exists, plenty of home taping of radio would have pre-dated it, but I believe that as the law stands right now, it would be legal even taking into the format shifting issue)

    Other than that, carry on! (Yes, we've had a lot of very clever people here but our historical stiff-upper-lippedness doesn't seem to be present much any more)

  17. rory alsop 1
    Thumb Up

    There was successful British one!

    In production from 1999 - I still have one in my car and one on my workbench. The Empeg, brainchild of Hugo 'Altman' Fiennes and a bunch of Cambridge geniuses (Genii?).

    It wasn't as portable as the iPod - it was for a car - but it has hard drives, it can play mp3, ogg, flac, wav etc., and the sound quality is considerably better than its competitors, even now, as it was targeted at the high end market.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Deo gratias! About time too!


    Britain's unelected government appears to be more powerful than its elected one. And without political oversight, and left to their own prejudices devices, they don't half come out with some rubbish


    This has been the greatest danger to UK democracy since the 1960's from when it started growing and blossoming and usually allowed to fester so.

    Note to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and that other chap: get a grip lads will you?

  19. Anonymous Coward

    UK players not around because we made the same old proprietory hardware/software mistakes

    UK never make mp3 players? Im still trying to erase horrible memories of the SoulMate...

    I have one somewhere after I just gave up trying to use it and refused to buy any other player until someone borrowed me the archos multimedia hd based one.

    The SoulMate never took off because it was crap.

    How crap ? how about no facility to change or charge batteries, and needed to reupload each time you changed the batteries. And it used battery when not in use, so if you put it down and expected it to work the next day, you were in for a nasty surprise. The musicmatch software was awful, and it was proprietary crap that couldn't be made to work with any other programs or operating systems apart from windows 95/8. The dock was a huge edge connector on the pcb of the player behind a cover, that fitted into this huge dock connecting to the parallel port that used to need budding with alcohol periodically to work too.

    Could have happened in the uk, provided they made one that actually was any good...

  20. Mark McNeill
    IT Angle

    Power To The People!

    Nineteen posts so far, and none of them pays homage to the Tooting Popular Front? They had the right idea:

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A lot of this is down to local market size

    A lot of this is down to local market size; if you are in the USA you can reach a large market without having to cope with foreign legal/regulation systems and shipping issues. If you are based elsewhere it is a lot harder to get traction. Even most of the teck news sites are USA based!

    This is now becoming less of an issue for web based companies and software, but is still a problem.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK it was from a former Civil Servant

    In the programme for the recent "Yes Prime Minister" play, they had a piece from a former Whitehall chap.

    He reckoned that one big problem Government had developed was the riubbishing of the higher echelons of the Civil Service as a career, and the introduction of the SpAd, so that lately a lot fo the advice comes from these party apparatchiks. You can oftern see them interviewed as "esperts" on things like Newsnight, the John McTernans of this world.

    Another problem is the one of Interns, often paid for by Lobbying Firms.

    The Civil service may have had its own inertia, but in some ways that may be preferable to the ideas corporations drive forward

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    iPod a flop?

    "It is worth recalling too that Apple's own iPod, launched in October 2001, was a flop for a considerable time. It only began to gain traction when Apple launched the music acquisition part of the system, and ported iTunes to Windows, in 2003."

    Personally, I would say many people thought it was going to be a flop (or a niche product at best) - lovely bit of kit, but far too expensive and Mac-only - but it wasn't. Certainly there was a boost in 2003 as you say, but the iPod was doing well and for my money, that Windows compatibility (something every Mac hack I knew didn't see coming) had been added a year earlier was an incredibly significant move.

    It wouldn't have been that long after the launch (*well* before 2003) that I saw a bloke with white earphones confidently walking down the street – I then observed him fiddle with what I assumed was the iPod in his inside coat pocket… but passing him, I saw that it was actually a portable CD player and he flushed and look so embarrassed when he realised I had twigged he didn’t actually have an iPod. When I saw that, it really struck home that this was a device that people really thought was cool – and one that had a good chance of being successful.

    1. Annihilator


      Flashback scene in the Big Bang Theory when Sheldon observes Raj's new purchase:

      "Mmm, I assure you, you'll be sorry you wasted your money on an iPod, when Microsoft comes out with theirs"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: iPod a flop?

      I seem to remember the iPod gaining traction among Windows users way before iTunes for Windows was launched. You just had to use another piece of software to transfer music to the player. I knew a lot of Windows users who bought them in those early days but didn't switch to iTunes even when it launched, preferring at the time to stick with WinAmp or WinMediaPlayer.

  24. b166er


    As per the the first line in this article:

    Creative were the first.

    Unlike the many iPod's in landfill, my Zen Touch 20GB is still in daily use. Therein lies the problem.

    More money, more debt, more shiny things.

    Less money, less debt, less shiny things.

    98% of the population are lining the nests of the other 2% and these patents and copyrights only serve to reinforce that.

    1. Armando 123


      The 10GB Gen2 Mac-only iPod I bought in 2002 is still working and used (via adapter) for music in the kitchen.

  25. Mickey Finn

    Which unelected government?

    "Britain's unelected government appears to be more powerful than its elected one. And without political oversight, and left to their own prejudices and devices, they don't half come out with some rubbish."

    Are you referring to our un/civil service or are you referring to the unelected EU politburo?

    Both are eating away at our liberties at an alarming rate...

    I think we should be told!

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Which unelected government?

      On this occasion, it's not the EU.

  26. Graham Bartlett

    @Ralph 5 - no investment

    Too right. Look at all the people going on Dragon's Den. Sure you get some right muppets on there. But you also get some who have businesses that are already turning over plenty of money, have employees, have more orders than they can handle, etc.. All of them, with *NO* exceptions, have previously been to their banks to ask for loans to expand their businesses. And all of them have been told to piss off. Hence they've ended up on Dragon's Den, being forced to sell off shares in their business in order to fund this expansion.

    Banks in Britain have long since forgotten what it means to be a bank. They're so busy playing big-money Monopoly with their savers' cash that they've forgotten the *REAL* income should be as a result of interest on loans. Sure you can play arbitrage games for a few hundredths of a percent, but why not make loans and get 5% interest back on it? Sure some of those loans will be bad, but you don't have to be too choosy to avoid that. They've always been happy to loan to individuals with security in the form of houses, but they've never wanted to loan to companies with security in the form of an established, successful business. It's tempting to blame this on the current recession, but it's actually been happening for a long, long time.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Except that...

    ... Ian Hargreaves was invited to do the job by Mr Cameron and is not a REAL Civil Servant at all, but works at Cardiff University as "Director of the Centre for Journalism Studies". Which, I assume, means he gets paid for reading the paper.

    1. MonkeyBot

      Re: Except that...

      As the director, he probably has PA to read it for him.

  28. Paul Ireland
    Thumb Up

    Cambridge Computer Z88 1987

    Anyone remember the UK's original iPad/Kindle/tablet/netbook/smartbook forerunner way back in 1987, Sir Clive Sinclair's Cambridge Computer Z88:

    I wonder how that would have evolved if they kept at it.

  29. Alex 14


    "They go on to predict that lots of innovation will instantly materialise if the format-shifting exemption is introduced without compensation."

    The review argues that rightsholders are perfectly entitled to persue compensation. They simply go about it in one of the traditional ways in which people make money - raise prices, in this case, to take account of consumers new freedom to format shift. A self-correcting "problem"!

  30. John Dougald McCallum

    British elrctronics

    The only thing keeping British electronic Co.s from developing any new and inovative product is British electronic Co.s the board does not or rather are desperate to be seen as" a safe pair of hands" on the corporate tiller.there are very few willing to bet the house on new products,and it is not just in the electronics arena.Who among you have heard of The Workmate(now there are several versions) if IRC offered to Black and Decker they told the inventer to take a hike same with Dyson and his new Vacuum cleaner there are probibly dozens more that the inventor just didnot have funds to make and take to market.Fail for the chicken hearted Manufacturers

  31. David_H

    Psion irony

    Looking back it's ironic that in 2000, not 1 mile from Psion HQ, a couple of us wrote an MP3 player for one of Psion's folding pocket computers, as a filler job between paying contracts and as such made it freely available. It was good training for my PFY Brent, as it pushed the processor pretty hard.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Well this explains a lot

    Now I can understand so many Apple haters in Britain. Jealousy! Just jealous that they can't seem to invent anything cool.

  33. Andy Taylor

    Gordon Brown had the Beatles on his iPod

    but he had to remove them when someone pointed out that there was no legal way that the music could have got there (this being before the Beatles appeared on iTunes.

    1. ideapete

      Not on

      Innnnnnnnnn his Ipod in his trousers

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Three things

    Three things that kill innovation in the UK

    1) UK just moans all the bloody time, e.g olympics we just cry about the cost, we dont see the opportunity to showcase the UK and use the opportunity of the worlds' eyes to sell the UK, instead we sell out to the usual US companies, Barclaycard, McDonalds etc. No doubt part of the "gentlemens" agreement between the olympic committee in getting the games in the first place under some bollocks of making the games profitable.. Another example the Millenium Dome exhibition, which was actually really good and innovative, if people had bothered to go and see it, instead of moaning about how wank it was, yet had never been anywhere near it. Result instead of an ongoing potential trade fair location, it got sold off to a US billionaire.

    2) Tax system, we need a simple one level of tax.. not tiered that screws you over if you decide to get off your back and make something innovative, or do a little extra. The first guy at your door is the tax man and so the first "employee" of a new business is a bloody accountant..

    3) We always go for the cheapest of anything, e.g cheap milk.. rather than pay £1 a month more for milk delivered by the milkman, thereby keeping a local guy in a job. We save £1 by purchasing from a supermarket that offshores its profits. Having travelled a fair bit around Europe, other countries are far more hardcore on buying local produce or products made in their own country, whereas we dont care and buy the cheapest, flown, shipped in from China.. etc. net result of all this cheapness is that we all fail to establish a profit feedback loop.

    Ok maybe not the best of examples, but you get the idea..

    1. ideapete

      Quality Vs Cost

      To true - You build projects with Quality ( Iphone / Pod / Pad from Steve ) and eventually costs go down and Quality soars

      You do it with cheap cost focus and the reverse happens , Quality down and costs soar, unemployment through the roof.

      Imagine a Brit gov sponsored Ipad the size and cost of an aircraft carrier, then again you could sell that to the far east when their Russian never used carrier submarine does its dive sideways

      Where is Q when we need him ?

  35. ideapete

    Ya didnt have one

    Total Bs Ya didn't have a Steve and all your inventors studied " The Life of Brian " so at least you got the name for some good software

  36. Mark Pawelek

    Apply more scrutiny than top scientific journals give article submissions

    Is it some kind of coincidence that US politicos, EU and UK bureaucrats are all considering patent and copyright 'reforms' at this time?

    1. We need to free up the patent offices so that they can use their revenue to pay competent people, who aren't rushed, to only grant patents for actual inventions. Ideally each patent should be examined by a committee of experts, in much the same way that top scientific journals examine each article before publication; but with far more scrutiny.

    2. All patent applications should be open to scrutiny when an application is made so that the application can be challenged by interested parties.

    3. Given 1 and 2, I feel that the likely hood of bad patents being awarded will be reduced from 99% to 0.001% so I'm not too worried about a review and challenge process for bad patents. Still, something needs to be in place just in case...

    PS: Being a software developer, I'm amazed at the number of good developers/entrepreneurs I meet who brought successful new products to market and sold out at the earliest opportunity. It's not only the City who are risk averse in the UK - it's a culture right through society.

  37. Bureaucrat

    From the IPO bureacrat's perspective...

    Declaring an interest, I work at the IPO and am the person second on the right on the team photo kindly re-produced by Andrew - I presume you have cleared the copyright for this? ;)

    On the legal side, you say that CBS vs Amstrad legalised format shifting or authorised it at least - and complain that we should have known that (indeed, the court citation you link to is on our website, so don't worry, we're aware). In that particular case manufacturers of dual-tape devices were taken to court because their Hi-Fi's could be used for infringing, and so - it was argued - the sale of them would authorise the infringing of copyright. The judgment found that a user of dual-tape players might infringe, but the Hi-Fi's and tape-decks also had many other non-infringing uses, so manufacturers should be allowed to sell these devices, as they were sold for mutliple legal uses. It's a bit like authorising people to buy photo-copiers, even if you could potentially photocopy a whole book and breach copyright law. The judgment therefore allowes the sale of devices where infringement is possible but there are multiple other legal uses. So it's not the case that CBS v Amstrad authorised format-shifting, or removed the liability for device manufacturers - even if the music industry has said it won't pursue format shifters, other industry bodies might, as could other content industries...

    I think you raise some valid points about the figures. They are not as thorough as one might want, but I think they are a fair first stab at a potential impact, and you have missed a couple of things. It seems unfair to say that the bureacrat's (me?) think format shifting will add £2bn, when that is the highest possible point of the range. IF - and it's a big IF - a format shifting exception helped a UK firm create a globally winning tech product (like the iPod is for music players), it is not unreasonable to suggest that the potential market would be half of what the iPod has created, and that is around £2bn p.a. Given that format shifting could apply across all content, and that small and innovative firms tend to create products in these spaces – as well as technology giants - It is perhaps not an unreasonable maximum?

    But, as the Hargreaves text says: "On a more modest scale, if it encouraged more new firms like Brennan (which grew its turnover to 10 million pounds in three years despite the constraints) and others to create new niche products, an extra £0.3 billion could be possible." £0.3bn may be too high a minimum, but we are talking here of 10-30 small firms coming up with new products or services. The UK should be well placed in Europe for this "Because the UK is well placed in most of the digital content industries, it is much more likely than other EU economies to be able to exploit the opportunities." So there is a range from £0.3bn to £2.0bn, and more importantly the figures are easily deconstructed and opens up a space for having an evidence based discussion about what the impact could be. This is part of that discussion, and I'd be keen to hear about better suggestions, wider evidence and thoughts.

    Peter Gathercole rightly points out that it is contracts which allow certain forms of format shifting, and you need to get every bit of content along for that ride, which is not always easy. Anonymous Coward is equally right to point out that Ian Hargreaves is not a civil servant, but he had some help from a team. And as he/she says, taping tv programs and radio is not illegal, nor is the Sky Player I think, due to a set of specific exceptions in the copyright law which allow you to 'time-shift' broadcasts.

    I'm not saying the analysis is perfect, but I think you must agree that it's a starting point. No?

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