Intervention in the House: Use of Authors' work on the internet (Digital Economy Bill)

MacShane Urges Protection of Journalists Rights in Digital Economy Bill

8 April 2010

Speaking in the closing stages of the Digital Economy bill, Labour MP Denis MacShane, said that journalists, musicians and creative workers should not have their work stolen from them to be handed out free on the internet. The MP, a former president of the National Union of Journalist, criticised Lib-Dem and Labour MPs who were seeking to deny to creative workers a fair share of their added value by allowing free access to what they produce. After the debate MacShane said : "I share the concern that this bill was rushed through without full consideration and the issue will certainly have to be revisited after the election but the core principal that the labourer is worthy of his or her hire is now in law and I welcome that."
Since then there have been blog attacks on MacShane including one blogger who accused the Rotherham MP of "standing up for the great unwashed masses of broadsheet journalists". Commenting on this attack the MP said : "I have defended journalists and media freedom all my life. I am saddened that there is so little understanding of the need to stop the theft of intellectual property rights. I support the widest access to the web but there needs to be some balance and both sides in this debate need to cool down the rhetoric and work on rules that can help everyone."
Below is Denis MacShane’s intervention as published in Hansard

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): I rise as a former president of the National Union of Journalists to humbly suggest to the Committee that the labourer is worthy of his hire. If someone puts his intellectual effort into writing an article, making some music or creating something, it should not be stolen from him and handed out free through the power of the internet.

As a parent, I have to say that it may not be the most unwelcome thing in the world for a father or mother to tell their child, "Actually, you can't spend all evening on the internet."
I understand why the Liberal Democrats-representing big capitalism-generally oppose the measure, but as a socialist I am astonished that some of my hon. Friends are telling my journalist colleagues and others that they do not have the right to protect that which they have created, and to have some modest share of the value they add to our economy, because that would represent problems for wi-fi providers, internet café owners or hotels.

That is not something I am happy with, and that is why, in the last, dying hours of a Labour Government, I am doing something that may be difficult for colleagues, which is to support a Labour Government. I do so not from Labour loyalty, but because I profoundly believe that the explosion of the net-of information provision-which I welcome, must not deny those who add value to it their chance to have some share of that which they produce.

Mr. Foster: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. MacShane: A Liberal Democrat asks me to give way. We are in the last dying hours of this Parliament. That party has always stood up for the rich and the privileged against the rights of journalists and trade unionists. I will not give way. If he wants to make another speech, he can do so.