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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Rock MP takes on music pirates
Pete Wishart
Pete Wishart left the rock scene for Westminster
The government has been urged to crack down on music piracy by a former rock star who gave up music to become a Member of Parliament.

Pete Wishart, who was in the bands Runrig and Big Country, told the first House of Commons debate on music that illegal copying was the biggest threat to the industry.


To steal somebody's intellectual property... is the same as stealing their video recorder

Pete Wishart MP
The UK music business is worth more than 3bn per year and employs 122,000 people, he said.

Other MPs said the government should concentrate on organised piracy rather than personal copying, and that the government should not take a heavy-handed approach.

Mr Wishart, Scottish National Party MP for North Tayside, described UK music as a "great success story" during the debate in the House of Commons.

"As well as contributing so much to our economy, the music industry faces some key issues and challenges, not least the challenge presented by the illegal recording of recorded pieces of work," he said.

"This perhaps more than any other issue is a liability for the future of the music industry."

'Woeful'

Music fans must realise that illegal copying was theft, he said.

"The message that we must get across to the public is that to steal somebody's intellectual property, their creation, is the same as stealing their video recorder."

He said trading standards departments were "woefully" under-funded and under-resourced, and pirates often evaded the law because of a lack of personnel.

Illegal downloading and CD copying have risen in recent years
Illegal downloading and CD copying have risen in recent years
Artists and taxpayers were the ones losing out, he said - not the big record companies - and said the industry now existed in a digital world.

"This is a new environment, this is a new marketplace, and unfortunately it is the pirates and the criminals who profit from the creation of others and are able to exploit this market.

"The legal framework that is provided to protect these artists is not sufficient. It is at best patchy and certainly is not consistent in the way that it is applied across the European Union."

Mr Wishart was one of the original members of Big Country, and was in Runrig between 1984 and 2001, when he was elected.

Global sales of pirated music CDs rose almost 50% to an all-time high of 950 million units in 2001, a recent report revealed.

Dr Kim Howells MP
Kim Howells says the government will reform public entertainment laws
But Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten said over-interference by the government would be the "kiss of death".

Minor illegal internet downloading and CD-copying should be approached with a relaxed attitude, but a tough stance should be taken on organised piracy, he said.

Anne McIntosh, for the Conservatives, also advocated a light touch regulatory role.

Broadcasting minister Dr Kim Howells said the music industry was successful "largely because the government had kept its sticky fingers out of it".

Music was the "most obvious manifestation" of the UK's cultural life, he said.

He also re-iterated the government's intent to scrap a law that says no more than two musicians can perform in a pub without an entertainment licence.

The law was idiotic and its origin was in a different age, he said, and he hoped a new law would be included in the Queen's Speech.

See also:

11 Jun 02 | Entertainment
22 Mar 01 | Key People
27 May 02 | Science/Nature
11 Jun 02 | England
17 May 02 | Entertainment
13 May 02 | Entertainment
19 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
26 Feb 02 | Entertainment
29 Nov 99 | Scotland
12 Apr 02 | Entertainment
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