back to article 'Hey, Tories, who knows what a nontrepreneur is?’

To Manchester, where I had been invited to liven up a Conservative Conference Fringe discussion on digital policy. I shared the panel with influential moderatrix Dominique Lazanski, a former Yahoo!er who recently got the Pirate Party into the Culture Ministry; a young parliamentary candidate called Nick Pickles who had worked …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. JimC

    When I look back on when I first got excited about this internet thing

    What excited me was the thought that we little people, we creators, could maybe get stuff out to the public without big media, and better still people could find our stuff without the damn worthless advertising people...

    So twenty years on, what do we have: enormous dominance by the biggest of big companies, and its a bloody advertising/media company at that.

    And why: well basically I guess its too many people had this bizarre feeling that advertising is a free lunch. Well there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, and mega media is taking all the money and offering the creators maybe a few crumbs off the table (if its not too inconvenient for them).

    Looks like we're gonna rot in our Grave New World...

    1. sandman

      Nice Strawbs reference

      Couldn't agree more - far too many pointless sites that really only exist to serve adds. Use your dominant search engine to look for virtually anything and you will usually be fed a bunch of list sites first with no useful content. However, some of us still try to produce in an add free manner...

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        "Couldn't agree more - far too many pointless sites that really only exist to serve ads."

        Perhaps we need a search engine option that "dislikes" pages with content from multiple domains.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Silicon MAGIC Roundabout

    Only in Blighty. And I sincerely hope that picture was taken at the conference, but that's probably too much to ask.

    As to copyright, I think that the underlying feeling is one of big copyright with their enforcement-only "strategy" and letting the quality of their produce wither while suing their "consumers" (terrible word) having fscked up so badly as to have lost all moral rights. That is, it has to be overhauled and at least shortened a bit closer back to what it once was before paying for it all becomes a reasonable option again. Or maybe that's just projecting; it's certainly how I feel about it, along with the massively abused American patent system and, oh dear, ACTA as yet another sign this is all going downhill in a nuclear powered buggy.

    Maybe we should do away with the ability to trade copyrights. It's going to hurt all publishers and not all of them are bad, but it's something that can be overcome through inventive rearranging of publishing contracts. And maybe it'll do something about the massive abuses to creators in, say, the music industry, or in the paid science publishing scene. Another parallel with patents where the trolls call themselves innovative yet are anything but, now stooping to out-of-branche extortion using acquired patent bundles instead.

    Fix the system to be reasonable again and we'll be reasonable about partaking again. Before that, ah, you know, ve haf vays of getting vhat ve vant anyvay. It's not nice, but it's more effective than the increasingly desperate (and undemocratic) countermeasures. Bit of a different angle than you're putting on it but it's too close for comfort already, especially with the bit you inexplicably left out. Agreeing with Andrew. The very idea. Ew.

  3. Phil Bennett
    Thumb Down

    Copyright protection measures

    Imagine I'm responsible for keeping the streets clean. I suggest that there are solutions to littering: to not allow the culprit out of their house, or to restrict their access to certain areas, or to have a network of cameras covering the entire country. You'd (rightly) say it was an overreaction.

    It wouldn't be your responsibility to suggest alternatives - you'd be welcome to do so, naturally - but it isn't your problem and not liking my solutions doesn't make it your problem.

    When you suggest cutting off internet access, or blocking based on sites / protocol, or making the ISPs into the copyright police, I say you're overreacting. Throwing your hands up and saying "is there nothing you like?" isn't helpful.

  4. Spearchucker Jones


    Can't really work out the point. I don't know any programmers that can't program*. That part with Richard Attenborough makes zero sense to me. And I'm left feeling that knowing what a nontrepreneur is must make you part of some weird club.

    All I can get out of it is that there are loads of smaller tech companies that aren't making money (their fault), and some big ones that are. I knew that! I'm not sure what the Tories and Labour have to do with it.

    The article seems to try to be edgy and with it and assumes readers know what it's about, yet completely passes me by (maybe I'm the only idiot in the cheap set, and everyone else DOES get it).

    Copyright theft is a prblem, yes. Waiting for government to do something about it is like blaming McDonalds for being fat. It's like the guy who writes an Android app that costs £0.099, and a day after release sees a hacked free version in the app store. If he'd done his homework he'd have known that if the app is good, hackers will make it available for free. Cool. That's the environment Android apps are in. Find another revenue stream, like making the app free and charging for access to a service the app uses.

    Take responsibility for your decisions, and stop thinking world + dog owes you handouts. From the government or anyone else.

    * I know many who program well, and just as many who program badly.

  5. Peter Fox
    Thumb Down

    Rights - What exactly?

    Define what you mean by "Rights". Copy, quote, use in perpetuity, modify, translate, use ideas from, transfer onto different media, sell all or part, create something that interfaces by reverse engineering? How about right to get parts removed from your product for some reason as a 3rd party or bugs fixed? Jailbreak my phone? Sell my firmware on your hardware? Insist you recognise my authorship? The list goes on.

    The apps market shows there is a functioning market on the Internet.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " rights don’t apply and ... markets can’t be created. " - Andrew Orlowski.

    They do apply, whether or not enforcement is pursued with the hot-bloodedness it deserves.

    Having read and enjoyed the article, I'm going to do this dumb thing of writing a short list by way of response, for want of energy to do better:

    1) we should hold the ISPs liable, bring in criminal liability, make them spend 5% of their revenues on hiring coders to squash stolen IP data transfers.

    2) as per the CD and cassette tape, there should be MASSIVE, and retrospective compensation to the creative industries (film, music), from the digital businesses which have received money which would have gone on paying for content.

    3) people need to stop fooling themselves there's anything OK about IP theft - there needs to be a consensus argued for and built up, that it's really destructive.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      I'll do something even dumber. I'll feed the troll.

      1) Given what we all know is out there, making yourself liable for it all is legal suicide. Therefore, all ISPs will have no choice but to immediately leave the market.

      2) Retrospective law-making to punish "digital businesses", whatever they are. Hmm, I think you'd have to rip up most of the legal principles that make this country safe to live in.

      3) Given (1) and (2), I don't think "people" are going to have any respect for you ever again, so if you *really* want to bolster respect for Intellectual Property could you please start campaigning for legalised piracy? That would be a big help for the rest of us. Thanks.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)


        If your 1) was true ISPs would have left the market in 1995. 2) finds you fantasizing.

        You do seem in a great rush to get to 3) ... by any means necessary!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Andrew re: Re

          It seems you've more sympathy with ISPs than content creators, Andrew. You yourself identified a few years back, that the reason broadband took off, was because people wanted to steal music and films. You seem to imply above there is some unfairness to the ISPs of upsetting their ultra-long-run projected ROCE by requiring they no longer be primarily an instrument of theft. Well, forgive me if I have little sympathy for your view, or for that investment strategy

          Follow your own logic: enforcement, be it civil or criminal, can't be exclusively done on end-users, uploaders, and pirate sites - as it is bad politics, too costly, ineffective, they have no money, and our prisons are full. That leaves ISPs and infrastructure owners. The choice is fairly simple: either Parliament creates a new statutory duty for the latter parties to prevent piracy (whether or not that requires them to raise their prices), or we continue with the honesty box method of paying for content - i.e. not.

          As for my fantasising about a tax on copper wire like the tax on cassettes and CDs, yes, I am, guilty. But then I am also fantasising when I imagine a world where artists and their employees get paid to give their lives to making good art. I just thought it would be easier to persuade others to care about this as well.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC 11:20

      (1) not really practical to hold the ISPs criminally liable - probably not legal to do so and certainly not morally acceptable. But mainly you would end up crippling the internet.

      Look at the standard car analogy. You want to make car manufacturers criminally responsible for people's dangerous driving. The only way they can prevent you from driving dangerously is to cripple the car and fill it full of sensors that shut down the engine and call the police as soon as it thinks you have committed an offense. Anything less and they open themselves to prosecution.

      Same would happen with ISPs - they would deep packet inspect all your traffic and block anything that they didn't know was non-infringing. So clear text HTTP to a whitelist of websites would be the only permissible traffic.

      (2) I have no problem with compensation as such, but where do you get this from? Suing 13 year olds who own nothing? What about their parents - more money I suppose, but not enough to make MASSIVE (sic) compensation payments. Why would any content creator bother to make decent content when they can churn out shite and get rich through the compensation culture instead. Given the numbers already being claimed by the assorted *IAs where would this retrospective trillions of dollars compensation come from?

      (3) I agree with you there. The main problem (apart from the ease and unlikelihood of getting caught) around IP theft is that people don't see it as anything wrong. Part of the problem lies in people's attitudes towards IP theft, but also a lot of it lies on the side of the IP holders. When Britney Spears can make 20 million without even writing her songs, U2 can buy and run their own 747, D list slebs can make millions with no talent and no redeeming features (Kerry Katona, Jade Goody, Richard Hammond I am thinking of you) you know that the corporations behind them are making fuck-loads more.

      And yet they still try to justify inflated prices for their "products" - it is no wonder we feel no great guilt for stealing their music / films etc. Clearly the extreme of IP theft is that no-one makes anything anymore, but it is time for a compromise - you charge less for your stuff and we'll stop stealing it so much. I know there are people who would steal IP regardless of cost, but equally there are artists who have more money than they can ever spend so they aren't being inconvenienced if they don't make as much money from their next film / album or whatever.

      What we really need is some common sense from all sides - it is clearly wrong to pirate whatever you want just because you want to,but it is also clearly wrong to price gouge your customer base and then whine like a little bitch when they refuse to bite.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge
        Thumb Up


        Spot on!

      2. The Indomitable Gall

        @AC & @Lee


        "2) as per the CD and cassette tape, there should be MASSIVE, and retrospective compensation to the creative industries (film, music), from the digital businesses which have received money which would have gone on paying for content."

        A "tape tax" is a blunt instrument and affects many innocent parties. The argument against it in the physical media space is that the small band that sells their own original material direct to the public finds themselves paying royalties to someone who has nothing to do with their purchase.

        If you applied the same principle to internet connections, you end up with old Granny Johnstone, who has a computer to email the grandkids at college paying money to Fox because somewhere else someone else is downloading X-Men 2.

        The result of a "download tax" is exactly the opposite to what you want: people cease to respect IP laws because they start to consider the tax as "I've already paid for it".


        There's standard pricing across the industry. If the prices of material by the big names came down to the sort of level you seem to be expecting, it would squeeze all the little guys out, because while U2 could live on a hundredth of their current income, your average hopeful couldn't. Even many charting artists aren't that far off the breadline after they pay off their operating costs. And I doubt people would buy anything from an "unknown" at a hundred times the price of a known good artist. Bye-bye variety.

      3. Anonymous Coward


        You leave the Hampster out of this.

        He's worth 20 to the Nth Goodys or Hiltons Or Katonas...

        At least we have a new potential measurement for piss-poor celebs...

        The "Katona".

        1 hammond = 20 katonas (hammond is one twenetieth of the annoynace of a Katona)

        What could we have as the crowning measurement of utter "shite-ness"??

        A "Winner" or a "Clegg"??

        There are oh so many to choose!!!! ;-) BUT NOT THE HAMPSTER!!!!!!! He has enough issues to deal with (like top shelves)..

    3. Jim Morrow

      you are either a fool or a troll or a shill for big copyright. i'm not sure which.

      if isps are to be penalised like this, so should everyone else who sells stuff that might be used for copright violation or distributing copyright material: the post office, photocopier manufacturers, companies that make tape/video recorders (remember them?), distribution/shipping companies, telcos, retailers, etc.

      making isps liable for what other people send over their network is too silly for words. [you seem to ignore the reality that at least one party in these communications will have no contractual relationship with the isp.] the post office isn't criminally liable for delivering hate mail or libellous material. telephone companies are not criminally responsible for threatening phone calls. they're not exposed to copyright lawsuits whenever a kid sings happy birthday (it's copyright material) to their gran over the phone.

      it is simply not true that every unauthorised download represents a lost sale for big copyright. [calling it "the creative industry" is a bit rich considering it's controlled by megacorporations who force-feed the world shite like michael bay movies and maria carey: not much sign of creativity or industry there.] sometimes the stuff that is downloaded cannot be bought. figuring out how much revenue is genuinely lost by unauthorised downloading is hard. many freetards actually spend money on content, gig tickets and merchandise that they wouldn't otherwise have done after being introduced to something from a "free" download.

      you've also got to ask yourself how much of the money collected by "the creative industry" actually goes to the people who generated the creative work instead of the shareholders, executives and other assorted freeloaders at the likes of fox or emi.

      copyright violation is *not* theft. the ipr holder isn't deprived of their asset(s) whenever an unauthorised copy is made. it's beyond stupid to make out that unauthorised downloading is equivalent to nicking a car or shoplifting. unauthorised downloading is wrong of course and effective measures need to be deployed to reduce or eliminate it. the drivel you've spouted cannot hope to do anything in that direction.

      in short, your suggestions and mindset are part of the problem. anyone who claims ipr violation is theft simply does not know what they are talking about.

      1. JimC

        usual nonsense then...

        Someone disagrees with me so they must be a troll or a shill...

      2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)


        For a full house you need:

        "if i build a chair i'd love to keep being paid for it 50 years l8r!"

        - and -

        "shurely all music is just a ripoff of something else i don't see why we have copyright at all"

  7. Wilseus

    "the parties traditionally hosted their conferences close to where their base is strongest"

    <pedant>I'm originally from Blackpool, and I wouldn't call the area a strong Labour base by any stretch of the imagination. Its two seats are marginals, one currently Labour and one currently Tory and all its surrounding Fylde consituencies are some of the safest Tory seats in the country and have been for decades.</pedant>

    1. Graham Marsden

      I thought...

      ... Parties traditionally hosted their conferences to give their members a couple of days at the seaside.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and another thing

    following on from my list just above.

    IP enforcement should be a WTO / foreign office priority - if a transgressor website (e.g. the pirate bay) appears, then we (and copyright-recognising countries) need to put serious pressure on the government concerned - including sanctions if necessary - to shut it the fuck down.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "As soon as we start to “un-fetishise” this myth of two guys in a garage, and start to think more seriously about, say, payment platforms or credit systems that make buying stuff nice and easy, as easy as real life, then we’ll create markets. You won’t get this from Shoreditch."

    The point is, you need both the "two guys in a garage" (RIP SJ, btw and props to Mr H and Mr P) and the creation of the serious stuff too. What's incontrovertibly true is that neither will originate from Shoreditch. By all means napalm the whole place ASAP.

    Fine article, Andrew, keep writing'em and I, for one, will keep reading'em so that's one pair of eyeballs you can rely on monetizing ... ;-P

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Paying the price of fornication"

    That preacher must be kidding. Does he have any idea how much fornication *costs* these days?

  11. rurwin

    Getting free stuff.

    "Right now, getting free stuff on the internet is like picking five pounds notes off the street when nobody’s looking – people are going to do it,"

    I am reminded of the 14 year-old who stole a pack of chewing-gum and was treated pretty harshly by the court, and on the other hand of the file-sharers saddled with debts that they cannot ever repay. Both were acting under exactly the same misapprehension: that the goods were available for free, that what they were doing was wrong but nobody would do anything about it.

    We need sensible laws on IP that bring them back into line with morality. Copying and modification should be allowed. Only distribution should be punishable, and that by criminal law. It should cost nothing to prosecute copyright infringement, but the copyright holder should get no profit from it other than optional court-awarded restitution -- which should be in line with their loses.

    There should also be a defence where an item is not available from a publisher at reasonable effort and cost. (Print on demand means anything can be available, but it shouldn't cost huge amounts.)

    And copyright terms must be kept down to a reasonable length of time no matter what pressure the USA puts on us. Life-time plus 70 years is long enough.

    (D'oh because I can't believe how much I agreed with Andrew on his other points.)

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Rurwin, you too are acting under a misapprehension. You think that "filesharing" should be decriminalised, but that "distribution" should be punished. The whole point is that a filesharer *is* a distributor, and the law as it stands does indeed only punish distributors.

      The problem is not with the definition of the offense, but that the assumptions of damage don't match the reality. US law in particular has high damages as it was written when pirate distribution was generally carried out in back-room mid-scale production operations punting their wares at flea markets and in pub car parks.

  12. Joseph Lord

    Neither side is in the right

    Yes copyright is worthwhile and some enforcement should be possible but with some media companies trying everything they can to steal back from the public domain (by copyright extensions) and also using copyright law to wrap purchases of all sorts of products into license agreements so that you can't actually buy anything any more I struggle to find much sympathy for the general case. This is one of the problems with DRM too; it is used to extend the rights of the licensor not just to enforce the ones they actually have.

    Settlements in the hundreds of pounds and court judgements in the low 4 figures would be enough in all but the worst case but a greater number of these case would probably be needed for detterence. In the US the attempted use of penalties meant for commercial infringements for stupid people sharing files is distasteful. This is a matter of scale not the principle of punishment.

    The fact that until recently (has it actually changed yet) ripping a purchased CD to a computer/mp3 player/phone was copyright infringement brought the law into disrepute and was entirely unreasonable. I realise that enforcement of this was not applied but once you realise you are infringing with completely reasonable activity its not clear at what sort of infringement you should stop at.

  13. Jim 59

    Good Article

    The Internet stops people who create non-physical things from making money on them. Music and books today, maybe your product tomorrow. Unless we are all to work for free, counter measures are needed. What they are is anyone's guess. I hope it will not involve tracking the online activity of every netizen.

    The source should be stopped. People who offer property for illegal download should be treated a handling stolen goods and be given a prison sentence proportional to the number of downloads they caused and the value of the item. Downloaders should be treated lightly (there is a potential minefield of "accidental" or partial downloading). Maybe this already happens.

    1. Topperfalkon

      It shouldn't be treated as handling stolen goods because by law they're not stolen.

      If you make a copy of something and distribute that copy it's categorically not stealing, it's copyright infringement at most.

  14. James Pickett

    "Nice Strawbs reference"

    I might even dig out the LP now. Great cover, too - I miss those.

    The future probably isn't what we expect.

  15. TheOtherHobbbes

    No of course

    " rights don’t apply and ... markets can’t be created. " - Andrew Orlowski.

    ...they don't.

    That's because the Internet's biggest market is from ad revenue. Property rights and creative rights no longer apply to what we used to think of as content, because content is now free, by default.

    But they do apply to ad distribution mechanisms of various kinds, and to aggregation sites which use them.

    Try to steal Google's ad machinery if you don't believe me.

    The reality is that the content on YouTube, icanhaslolcatburger, etc, is just advertising for the - er - advertising.

    And the only 'markets' that matter are aggregators of user-generated activity of various kinds. Negotiations are between ad sellers and ad suppliers, in the currency of user attention.

    They're not between individuals selling each other things.

    This idea that all we need is consumer markets, rather than corporate aggregators, is really a bit 20th century.

    As for Silicon Roundabout - who's less adept at Internet? A hack on the Reg, or a 'nontrepreneur' who cons - I mean, persuades - some VC types to pay them a hefty salary for a few years while something they know damn well is a non-project fails to get off the ground?

    Not that anyone would ever do that deliberately.


    1. Topperfalkon

      I heard Tweetdeck is pretty popular these days...

    2. RegGuy

      Hmm, that's...

      ... quite an astute post.

    3. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: No of course

      We can't have markets because we don't have markets; we don't have markets because we can't have markets.

      That's genius.

  16. fritsd

    new markets not yet found: maybe flattering helps

    I shudder at the thought of agreeing about anything with mr. A.O., but with regards to money: I suspect he's right that most people would be willing to pay for content if it was easy and not bothering them with scary stuff like stolen credit card details etc.

    One internet experiment I found that attempts to address the problem is, but it seems to be used mostly by anarchists from Germany and hasn't reached the mindshare of the Anglo-Saxon intertubes yet. If the network effect would take of I think it could become very valuable and, well, "normal" way to give and receive money for your creative efforts.

    We don't need Tories or economists, we need philosophers to solve this one, methinks.

  17. disgruntled yank


    Judging from the picture on page 1, you picked the wrong audience to tell about "de-fetishizing".

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Human rights act

    "They’ve won on the Human Rights Act [citation needed], too, popular a couple of years ago but now universally despised by all but a few LibDems [citation needed].

  19. Luther Blissett

    Wacky Upside Down World of Property Rights

    Curious that just as the wild woolly web threatens to eliminate some property rights, so Down Under the Gillard mal-administration is threatening to create property rights in carbon (paper) credits.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    copyright, wrong etc

    If you want to fix copyright violations you need to instill respect for copyright itself. This will not happen when (using the US as a model) congress extends the copyright period every time Disney is about to lose control of Mickey Mouse. Copyright exists to ensure creators are able to make a living from their work. It should not exist to protect a business model. Nor should it be a lottery that, should you strike it lucky once, allows you and your descendents to live off the proceeds indefinitely. Restrict copyright to say 20 years, make it non-transferable and expire automatically at death.

  21. Martin Usher
    Big Brother

    Property's Overpriced?

    Much of the noise coming from media companies is based on exaggerated notions of how much media a person consumes and how much that media is worth to that person. Trying to squeeze value out of a proposition that lacks value is all the rage in modern marketing. The result's predictable; a protection racket approach to pricing where a sucker -- consumer -- is enticed to buy 'A' only to receive bills for 'B' through 'Z' as well. With content the constant lament is piracy; its just a way of corporate types to explain why their sales aren't where they'd like them to be.

    I' ve always thought that all business models eventually trend towards HMRC, the tax people. There is all revenue and collections and nothing inconvenient like product. What the modern business wants is the same thing --- a revenue stream without actually having to make product. This is really what's driving a lot of 'new technology' and why a lot of it never works.

  22. ColonelNZ

    The thing is there is still plenty of value added in going to the movies or buying a DVD. People are still willing to pay for this, at least in regards to movies - music is a different issue, as evinced by the fact that movie studios are constantly making record profits.

    You've also got well established evidence of how free downloads work as a loss leader for other products in the same domain. There's a video floating around the web from Neil Gaiman detailing the success he has had with offering books for free download.

    Movie studios have had at least 10 years to create a functional online marketplace and they haven't. They've only got themselves to blame. Netflix is wonderful, but what of the countries unable to access the service? iTunes is alright but it's still too expensive and doesn't have bulk buying options.

    In summary there is nothing extra that needs to be added to copyright enforcement - the options are fine as they stand. The new 3 strike laws proposals aren't designed to protect new markets they're designed to prop up old businesses which aren't really in competition with the internet anyway.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like