Leaked UK record industry memo sets out plans for breaking copyright

In this leaked, six-page email, Richard Mollet, the Director of Public Affairs for the British Phonographic Institute (the UK's record-industry lobbyists), sets out the BPI's strategy for ramming through the Digital Economy Bill, a sweeping, backwards reform to UK copyright law that will further sacrifice privacy and due process in the name of preserving copyright, without actually preserving copyright.

Mollet's memo, entitled "Digital Economy Bill weekly update 11 March 2010," appears to be a weekly status report on the DEB's progress. On the CC list are executives from major record labels, staff at IFPI (the international record industry lobby), PR agents from The Open Road, and others I don't recognise (if you can identify others on the CC list, please post to the comments).

In the memo, Mollet identifies Britain's top spies as being a stumbling block to the bill's passage -- worried, apparently, that creating a Great Firewall of Britain will make it harder for spies to spy on naughty sites (someone should tell MI5 about Ipredator, the excellent proxy service from the Pirate Bay; after all, that's the same proxy that everyone else in Britain is likely to use to get at the blocked sites if the BPI gets its way).

Mollet also implies that Britain's spy agencies might have paid for a Talk Talk survey in which 71% of 18-34 year olds said that they would simply evade the DEB and go on infringing.

Mollet claims that Britain's ISPs have already caved into their duties to spy on and censor network connections, claiming that there is a sense of "settled will" in the "ISP community."

On the other hand, he identifies Members of Parliament as being "resigned" to the fact that they will not be allowed to debate the bill or give it "detailed scrutiny" (heck of a job, MPs!). He cites an expert on legislation as saying that the bill will likely die if MPs insist on their right and responsibility to examine this legislation in detail before voting on it.

BPI Digital Economy Bill weekly minutes (PDF)



  1. The wording in the first paragraph had me very confused.

    “the BPI’s strategy for ramming through the Digital Economy Bill”

    Initially I thought that the article was refering to the BPI’s plans to destroy the DEB (I’m imagining a bulldozer raming through a building).
    Now I think that this is refering to moving it through parliament fast enough that it gets through (since apparently if it is slowed down enough to be actually read, it won’t).

    Am I right that this is what was meant?

  2. John Whittingdale “…still thinks it could be lost if enough MPs protest at not having the opportunity to scrutinise it.”

    Time to man WriteToThem in a last-ditch attempt to get awkward questions asked?

  3. Anon @1; yes, to ‘ram something through’ is a UK metaphor for forcefully and hastily pushing a decision through a review process. That sentence would more fully read ‘strategy for ramming the DEB through Parliament’.

    This is fascinating reading, and I say that as someone who has been up to my eyeballs in review of the DEB for the last few weeks (I am a legal volunteer with the Open Rights Group.) The mindset of the BPI is very odd; they actually seem to have convinced themselves that the Security Service (what is commonly termed ‘MI5’) is behind the opposition to the Bill. Yes, SyS has expressed its concerns – which are more about the DEB encouraging the spread of encrypted email, chat and filesharing – but that is a long way from imagining that it’s going around funding opinion polls against a Bill sponsored by another government department. That would make for a good film plot, but reality is rarely that entertaining.

  4. I was going to make a comment along the lines of ‘Cory, get a grip, there’s no need to exaggerate (things are bad enough without it)’. But then I read the email. The BPI et al really do seem to think they’re up against the security services. Fascinating. Well, three cheers for MI5!

    1. Yup – I was going to be all “Cory’s exaggerating again”…

      But I think this time, he might have been using the other powerful tool in his arsenal: understatement.

      The email is almost enough to make me SUPPORT the bill, just to get a more universal takeup of encryption. Except I know that wouldn’t happen. Until and unless browsers drop HTTP support altogether, or deprecate it heavily, everyone’ll be using plain text to chat on the net.

  5. Wow! Talk about paranoid!

    Actually, I’ve always said that if this Bill goes through, it will make encryption commonplace – as such, real crimes like Terrorism will become harder to detect and prevent.

  6. The message clearly states that

    “The information contained in this E-mail may contain confidential or legally privileged information. It is intended only for the stated addressee(s) and access to it by any other person is unauthorised. If you are not an addressee, you must not disclose, copy, circulate or in any other way use or rely on the information contained in this E-mail. Such unauthorised use may be unlawful. If you have received this E-mail in error, please inform me and delete it and all copies from your system.”

    Let’s review the incontovertible facts:
    -reading that email is illegal
    -you will go to jail
    -I can impose legally binding terms upon you by sending you mail
    -the sender of a message has the right to specify the ways in which you are allowed to use it
    -you must purge the contents of the email from both your computer and your brain
    -linking to the email, as boingboing has done, is also illegal
    -the police will be called
    -you will go to jail

    1. You have heard of the “Streisand Effect” haven’t you? It basically goes that if they ever tired to prosecute us the contents of this email will be read by hundreds of times the amount of people that would of read it in the first place. If they have any sense they’ll be trying their hardest to forget this email ever existed.

      Also, ironically, freedom is worth being jailed for.

    2. I know that this kind of language ends up in emails from lawyers a lot, mostly because of client-attorney privilege issues. In this case, who knows on what grounds?

    3. And really – how enforceable is the legality of reading the and distributing (“posting” a passive act of distribution). Seems more how you got it in the first place. If you were the one and it involved trespass… sure.

      And icky “He cites an expert on legislation as saying that the bill will likely die if MPs insist on their right and responsibility to examine this legislation in detail before voting on it.”

      Common sense in a democracy all too often gets in the way, especially when those law makers actually do their jobs. Will they? The internet seems like it’s been well utilised (oddly enough!) in getting the public to pressure the gov’t at the right times for the right causes – in no small part to BoingBoing’s rallying cry, it would seem.

    4. The legal warning contains the word “may”. So, you may or may not be doing something illegal by distributing the message. Your “incontrovertible facts” are fallacious.

  7. @syncrotic: there’s a clause in all of this legality, which means that if it’s deemed to be of public interest, the publishing of the content can be seen as lawful.

    Sure anyone publishing the content can be taken to court, but I doubt it would stand at all!

    1. There’s a big difference between something that is in the public interest and something that interests the public. The redistribution of this email is NOT in the public interest so the redistribution of it is highly illegal under the Data Protection Act. Fact.

  8. you know what the really funny thing is…

    Richard Mollet, BPI Director for Public Affairs, is also a MP candidate for labour in the April general election.


    No doubt his “music contacts” will love to talk to all his labour party and MP friends.

    And here comes the hilarious bit – his campaign slogan is “working hard for you”

    Yes, there is no doubt about that.

  9. Sorry I forgot…. another funny thing…

    The BPI organises the BRIT AWARDS – now what does the music trade press have to say about that:

    “Bradshaw hits the Brits

    11:06 | Wednesday February 17, 2010

    By Robert Ashton

    The music industry’s love affair with all things political was underlined last night with The Brits awash with MPs and advisors from all the main parties.

    The Home Secretary Alan Johnson and Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw represented the Government with the minister of state for employment Jim Knight, minister for further education Kevin Brennan and minister for creative industries Sion Simon also on hand to press the flesh and network with organizations such as UK Music, the BPI, PPL and the MU, keen to update themselves on the progress of the Digital Economy Bill.

    The Conservatives also wheeled out some big guns with shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and culture select committee chairman John Whittingdale among those enjoying the performances from Lady GaGa and Cheryl Cole.

    Don Foster, shadow culture secretary, who recently picked up Lord Clement-Jones’ Live Music Bill, and Lord Razzell were there to represent the Lib Dems.

    Meanwhile, MU general secretary John Smith and his deputy Horace Trubridge managed to persuade Bradshaw, Hunt and Brennan to wear badges supporting the organisation’s recently launched Music Supported Here campaign. Katie Melua also wore one.”

    Sorry for the copyright violation, I did respect moral rights by attributing, and I believe this is in the public interest.

  10. Re Digi @9 – before anyone asks, I am not aware that I am any relation to Ben Bradshaw MP!

    (Actually, we almost certainly are at some level. Bradshaw is not a particularly common name – only 15,000 of us in 60 million UK citizens according to the last census data – and it’s from a geographic root, so we’re likely all descended from the residents of a small town near Bolton.)

  11. Those email footers are no more legaly binding than me telling you that you owe me a thousand pounds.

    Considering that you have to read the email to get to the footer that states that reading the email is illegal, what court in the land will prosecute? Thats even more shady than your average EULA.

    Hopefully the Commons will take the time to read the Bill and give it the depth charging it so undoubtedly deserves.

  12. Realistically, how is my life as an ordinary internet user going to change when this bill becomes law?


  13. Cory, could you give the leaker a few pointers on PDF compression settings before next week’s instalment?

    I could have downloaded half an album with that bandwidth.

  14. What a fantastic distribution list! I’m sure some of those email addresses are going to be subscribed to various non-copyright-legal sites, and some in-boxes will be in receipt of assorted … well, who knows?

  15. I’m asking because I find some of the more panic-inducing measures to be scary but so unworkable in practice that they hardly seem worth worrying about.

    For example – ISPs disconnecting users who breach copyright. OK, but then what happens when Virgin Media have disconnected 50% of their users and go bankrupt?

    So I’m just thinking, what’s the likely impact of all this for average users like me?

  16. @5onthe5 Laws like these end up being selectively enforced. While the majority will go on as before, a select few will be persecuted and potentially have their lives ruined.

    The status quo will remain the same, and the BPI will lobby for even more draconian measures.

    On top of that, the law will still have a chilling effect on those who care a great deal to remain on the right side of it. Small businesses will suffer, our economy will suffer, and still, the status quo will remain.

    The BPI and our representatives need to wake up and realise the world has changed. We have solved the problem of information distribution and now we need to figure out how to live sensibly with the repercussions.

  17. @Allan C. Lloyds – Thanks.

    At its heart this is all to do with keeping the value of “content” high by controlling the means of its distribution, correct?

    Has anyone thought of a way of keeping the value of content high by another method? Until they do…as much as I hate the extreme measures in the Bill, I don’t feel as if my rights are being infringed too much by taking away my ability to do something I know to be illegal.

  18. 5onthe5, the reason why you don’t feel this infringes your rights is because you’re making an unwarranted assumption. What makes you so sure that the only people who will fall foul of the Bill are those who break the law?

    1. Exactly. This isn’t going to stop people sharing films and music. Those who want to share this stuff will quickly move to trackerless torrents, start using proxies, etc. These – and other solutions – will become widely available for little or no cost and will become easier to use as demand grows.

      The people who will suffer are people like Cory who will no longer be able to share videos of his daughter via RapidShare just because big content thinks it may be a copy of Avatar instead.

      The other people who will suffer are those will innovative and disruptive new business models. YouTube has a substantial amount of infringing content on it. Under this bill, it could be blocked. The same is true for Facebook and all other UGC sites. Both those sites are too big to block now, but that certainly wasn’t true 4 or 5 years ago.

      Imagine what your web experience would be like if legislation like this had been used to kill off video sharing sites before they had time to gain traction. Maybe there’d be some sort of service where each video is manually approved (as Italy seem to want), but it would be nothing like we have today where 20 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.

      I don’t know what the next big thing is going to be, but it’s a fair bet that, despite seeming like perfectly reasonable behaviour to many, some people will use it to disrupt big content’s business model. And it’s a fair bet they’ll try to use legislation like this to block it.

  19. “The consumer group Which? is also informally contributing to our thoughts.”
    Huh? Isn’t Which? a consumer advocacy group?

  20. 5onthe5 – what will you say when visiting boingboing becomes an ‘offense’ that can get you banned from the net for life?

    “I won’t visit anymore” isn’t a plausible answer – your comments are archived and retrievable.

  21. John Whittingdale MP, the industry stooge reported in the leaked email as being concerned that if other MPs wanted to scrutinise the Bill it would not get through, is the same man who defended junk food advertising on children’s TV. He said on the topic in 2007 “There is a threat to advertising from legislators, it is not new. It started a few years ago with tobacco … there is a real danger we are going down the same road with food high in fat, salt and sugar.”

    BTW: Andrew – spot on!

  22. @5onthe5 Ultimately the BPI and others like it are suffering from a serious imagination malfunction. They are supposedly a creative industry, and yet they didn’t see this coming and now they don’t know what to do. At their wits end they run crying to the government for protection.

    As @Andrew has pointed out, 20 hours of video is being uploaded to YouTube every minute. The Internet is a cultural machine, and the output is eclipsing big media.

    Digital distribution has destroyed, in a sense, the value of content, but we have demonstrated that we don’t need to keep the value of content high to maintain its production.

    The BPI are asking our representatives to solve their problems; but their problems are not our problems. We don’t, in matter of a fact, have any problems that need solving at all and I don’t understand why we should suffer for their sake.

    1. Allan C. Lloyds, you’re over-reaching. A miniscule fraction of Youtube content is original or is stuff which anyone wants to see, video viewing figures are still small beer compared to TV (and most of the most popular content is copyright infringing), and Youtube still hasn’t turned a profit.

  23. “OK, but then what happens when Virgin Media have disconnected 50% of their users and go bankrupt?”

    I seem to recall reading that in many of the jurisdictions that had proposed such measures, the legislation included provisions that ISPs could continue charging users even though they were no longer being provided with a service.

    I have no citation for this though, so take it with a grain of salt. It seems particularly outrageous, but I’m inclined to believe it, as it would seem to be a necessary clause in order to get the ISPs on board.

    1. Really?! Oh boy, I can’t wait to become an ISP in the UK! Here’s my business model:
      1. Attract lots of people with ridiculously low prices.
      2. Accuse them all of copyright infringement.
      3. Disconnect them all.
      4. Continue charging them for a service I don’t have to provide.
      It’s a license to print money!

      Can we lobby them to add a provision for “indentured servants”? Charging these hapless people money for non-service isn’t enough, I want to own them outright.

  24. Hopefully in the next leaked email we see the UK Pirate Party will get a mention, as well as ORG.


  25. From the slant of the information written about in the leaked email its pretty obvious anti democratic methods are being employed with full forsight and knowledge of the results, thus those supporting this bill are also obviously party to this action and should be publicly exposed as anti democratic lobbyists at every and all opportunities. The rights of the populace are not for sale, anyone who believes there is no repecussion in not respecting the rights of joe/joelene public will discover the error of their fantasy, this is not a cost free method of monopolising the UK, it will however signal the start of the dirty war that the media “Cartels” cannot win.

  26. @Stooge I don’t think so. Even if only 5% is original content, that’s still more than Freeview TV in this country (assuming Freeview is showing 60 channels of original content 24 hours a day, which it doesn’t). Then how about we add Vimeo, Blip.tv, and all the others.

    So maybe it’s not all to your liking, to each their own. So I like this and you like that. What does that tell us? Nothing.

    Google is confident YouTube is going to make a profit; they wouldn’t have bought it otherwise. The jury is still out on that one. We’ll see.

  27. I wonder, is there a law against trying to cheat the democractic process? The email makes it clear that they are attempting to rush the bill through so that it doesn’t have time to be argued. This is directly contrary to the entire purpose of the parliamentary system. If this were a legal court, it would be considered contempt. I would hope that anybody responsible for and involved in a system of parliament would be disgusted by this and would kill the bill on those grounds alone. There is due process for a reason.

  28. Lets be honest Cartel front organisations like the BPI, and all the other organisations that all gather their funding from the media industry while pretending to be separate voices are being given undue influence of the democratic process, this is directly an attack on democracy and they are aware of this when they put forward their backwards looking agenda.

    The industry has become less creative and more manipulative to sustain its outdated business model, they have stood by while local “record shops” close, all the whilst undermining such emporiums by making the same items available as digital downloads and blaming filesharing. The industry has been lobbying since its inception for ever longer terms of copyright protection, no longer is copyright protection seen as a temporary time frame to monetise your creativity, instead its seen as “intellectual property” and bought and sold as a commodity, thus the prime purpose of elongating the time frame is to simply ensure the revenue stream continues delivering regardless, the words “public domain” scare those who have sold their rights away to big labels and thus whatever happens we will see the same old song every year ad-infinitum till the right-of-copy exists on something forever, all this despite the fact that its entirely possible given the current population of the earth the potential for alternative but duplicate creativity, are we then going to move to fight over who strung what words together first ?

    As someone who creates albeit not in the musical sphere its frightening to see how big business can mislead and launch a virtual land-grab and stop me creating for free with the mere utterance of an accusation, has common justice died in the UK ?

  29. They want to drive me underground, then that is where I’ll go and I urge others to follow.
    Get yourself bitblinder for torrent and web traffic and PGP for emails. If the download numbers are high enough it might just scare the government into seeing this is ultimately counter productive.

  30. I’m just looking through some of the e-mails and other the obvious BPI, IFPI and EMI CC’s here is what I gather…

    John Deacon, bassist from band Queen

    Tony Wadsworth Chairman and CEO of EMI Music UK

    Mike Batt, Deputy Chairman of BPI, Dramatico label head.

    Harry Maloney, Chairman of Apex Ent. Group, commercial director for BMG and band manager

    Will Tanner, part of Finsbury, a “financial, regulatory and political communications agency”

    Matt Bright, former editor for the Guardian and GLA advisor on digital media, now working for The Open Road Consultancy

    Martin Le Jeune, “Former head of Public Affairs at Sky, and former board director and Head of Corporate Responsibility at Fishburn Hedges. Martin was a civil servant in the Cabinet Office for over a decade and is a former Head of Public Policy at NatWest.”, now working for The Open Road Consultancy

    Sarah Shawcross, presumably Assistant to Dominic McGonigal, Director, Government Relations for PPLUK, a music licensing company.

  31. My wish is that artists and poets and scholar activists can help translate and navigate through these dark labyrinths and find an exit, and bring back the general heart of the matter into the light. An artistic revolt, something like the KLF x 23, a surge of creativity, free play, sharing, to help distinguish between artists’ and gov/corp/religio centralized beasts who throttle and thwart these universal ™ human birth rights with a fundamentalist materialist old bully boy gang rape strategy. Forcing it…

  32. Watch out open source, because big commercial software companies will start go after coders who can’t afford to fight litigation procedures, and end up handing over their source-code as well as a lawyer agreed settlement fees. Even now I bet law practices all over the country are now recruiting for the future turkey shoot, by standing outside the computer science faculties waiting for likely graduates to do post grad in law. Broad Band now means Catch-all!

  33. I used to go out of my way to avoid copyright infringement, but since the passage of this bill, I make sure to infringe on a regular basis. If, with the DEA in place, copyright infringement goes up…

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