Dear Sarah,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me. No need to apologise for the delay - I understand that your workload must be particularly heavy at this time and I very much appreciate that you were able to find a moment to write to me on the subject of the Digital Economy Bill (now Act).

I am glad that the Liberal Democrats chose to vote against the bill and I agree that the way it was railroaded through without adequate consideration was by itself good reason to vote against. However, I would like to suggest to you that there are serious issues around the substance of the parts of the bill regarding filesharing. In particular your assertion that filesharing is ‘a serious issue that has been waiting a very long time to be addressed’ is controversial.

There are those - including many ordinary musicians like myself - who argue that filesharing is not a problem at all.

Ben Goldacre has written an excellent piece which demonstrates that the figures on which the assertion that filesharing is a problem is based are themselves highly problematic:

To (partly) summarise Goldacre: any research that equates a download with a lost sale is fundamentally flawed. I have yet to see any research from the BPI that does not do this. It is obvious that people download far more than they would ever be able to buy - falsely assuming otherwise is part of why figures for lost revenue as a result of filesharing are grossly exaggerated.

Downloaders often delete much of what they download and buy legal copies of the rest. In this way, some downloads can lead to greater sales. That is not wishful thinking - here is some hard research showing that those who download more also buy more:

The industry has got it wrong on filesharing, and it is a tragedy that artists unions have uncritically taken the BPI line. Musician Steve Lawson has explained to the MU why attacking the internet will hurt him and other musicians:

He is not alone. Writer Nathaniel Tapley is deeply concerned about the bill and the Writers Guild support for it:

During such debate as there was in the Commons last week, it was repeatedly claimed that the filesharing parts of the bill were aimed at protecting artists. In fact, as Cory Doctorow points out, industry figures show that artists are making more than ever:

This may explain why Mo McRoberts’ open letter to MPs supporting the bill was signed by so many artists and musicians:

That letter contains assertions that far from being damaged by filesharing, the UK music industry has research to show that it is currently growing. Here is some of that research:

Certainly business models are changing in response to technology and there will be winners and losers over time. Of course large-scale commercial piracy must be tackled - though I believe that it is already well covered by existing law. New legislation on filesharing that cuts into basic freedoms and which could actually damage the real digital economy needs more than scrutiny - it should be thrown out in the absence of actual hard evidence that filesharing is actually a problem in the first place.

I know you are extremely busy right now - you have an election to fight and there are many other issues which are of equal or greater importance than the Digital Economy Act to deal with. For what it is worth, following your letter, I am planning to vote for you in Brent Central and will encourage like-minded others to do the same - this is the most important issue to me at the moment and Dawn Butler, your only serious opponent, actually voted for the bill.

Cheers and wishing you all the best for the election,