Given all the hysteria around the Amazon-Hachette faceoff in UK media, you could be forgiven for thinking that the UK publishing industry was on its last legs. Not so, according to the latest Create UK report, the main strategy document from the Creative Industries Council, available here.
As part of the media circus surrounding the release of the report, UK Prime Minister David Cameron publicly undertook to double the value of exports from the UK’s creative industries, currently running at £70 billion ($120 billion) a year, with a growth rate five times that of the wider economy over the past three years, according to the Financial Times. That doesn’t sound remotely like an industry in crisis, let alone one that’s terminally challenged by digital disruption.
“The UK is home to the some of the world’s biggest publishing companies,” states the report. “The estimated value of the entire UK publishing industry is £10 billion [$17 billion], with 40% of revenues coming from exports.”
The Creative Industries Council is definitely an industry lobby group rather than an independent platform for creatives of all kinds. Headed by Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and President of the Board of Trade, “The Creative Industries Council is a joint forum between the creative industries and government,” according to its official description. And its overall engagement with digital media is anything but Luddite. “The UK’s creative industries have adapted to the digital environment, offering consumers a great choice of innovative digital services across a wide variety of devices featuring huge catalogues of digital content, based on a variety of different business models including fabrication, purchase, rental, subscription, free-to-consumer advertising-funded models and more,” states the report.
The more alarming detail in the Create UK report concerns the intellectual property regime. “Copyright is, internationally and domestically, a property right,” it declares. “Any proposals to change the basis of copyright that would erode the ability of rights holders to exploit their works could undermine incentives to invest and hence inhibit the growth of the UK creative economy. Furthermore, the uncertainty generated by such proposals – even if they are not ultimately carried through – can itself act as a disincentive to investment and destabilise the market.” And just in case anyone missed the point, the report repeats it in a huge banner headline.
In other words, the UK’s prime creative industries forum is arguing that even any attempt or proposal to alter current property regimes is already a destabilizing threat to the UK’s creative industries. Never mind that other UK government departments, let alone independent international forums, may have already made such proposals. The CIC appears to be arguing for gag orders on any such proposals.
The full report contains many more details on the implementation of specifics around this policy, which thankfully do not go so far as recommendations on how to gag copyright reform proposals. But the drift of the overall strategy should be worrying enough. Especially with a shaky government eager to make political capital out of it.