Quite possibly the best bit of judicial insight ever in a copyright case. One Spanish judge dismissed the idea that pirated copies are necessarily lost sales, with refreshing clarity.
“it is not possible to determine the damage and corresponding compensation due to loss of benefits to the rightsholder, for the simple reason that customers of pirated copies of music and movies, when making the purchase of pirated copies, externalize their decision not to be customers of music and movies as originals, so there is no profit that could have been gained. In other words, those customers either buy a pirated copy at a low price or they don’t buy an original at a price between 15 and 20 Euros.
In any case, reversing the legal argument, it is conceivable that a customer, after hearing or viewing the pirated copy, may decide to purchase the original, finding it to their taste, so that the sale of pirated copies, far from harming, benefits the market for original items.”
The three wise men (or stooges, depending on your perspective) of Labour’s comeback have hailed their new policies over the past few days - seemingly without any sense of irony that they are not exactly on solid ground as far as credibility is concerned.
Ed Miliband: “We will cut tuition fees to £6,000.”
– Labour Manifesto, 1997: “We will not introduce tuition fees.”
– Tuition fees introduced in 1998.
– Labour Manifesto 2001: “We will not introduce top-up fees.”
– Top-up fees introduced in 2004, trebling the level of fees.
Ken Livingstone:”I will cut fares”
– Between 2005 and 2007, the single Oyster bus fare under Livingstone rose by 42 per cent (from 70p to £1)
–In 2007, there was a 25 per cent increase in the off-peak Oyster bus fare, greater than any rise Boris has imposed on it.
Ed Balls:”we will set out for our manifesto tough fiscal rules that the next Labour government will have to stick to”
– In 2006, Treasury figures showed that Chancellor Brown would have broken his ‘Golden Rule’ by £2.5bn. So he moved the dates of the economic cycle.
55.1% - Share of vote secured by the Coaltion
“The Coalition has no democratic mandate” - PCS Union
19.8 % - Proportion of PCS members voting to strike
“clear majority in favour of a strike” - Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union.
Concerted union effort to block the Government’s plans to restore the country’s finances to good health - and address a huge black hole in public sector pensions - is justifiable if that is what union members want. When less than one in five union members vote to strike, that is not the same as what union members want.
The time has come to seriously ask whether a few union barons - raking in salaries higher than the PM - are really acting in the best interests of their members or whether they are rallying a hardline minority for personal and petty political reasons.
The time has come for union ballots - like those at company AGMs and voluntary bodies - to have a minimum turnout to be quorate.
PRs will be familiar with a tool called Response Source - it’s basically a way for journalists to email people asking for comment/case studies on topics without having to ring thousands of people individually.
Well, one’s just dropped into my inbox that really does amaze.
Bereavement is a serious topic - one that the NHS should absolutely have material on. But piggybacking on the death of an international terrorist to achieve this?
MEDIA OUTLET: NHS Online
DEADLINE: 6 May 2011 at 12:00
QUERY: In reaction to the huge news that Osama Bin Laden has been killed, and triggered by the repeated comments that ‘justice has now been served’, I’d like to question the notion of revenge on mental health.
Even better - they want vigilante case studies!
- The family/ friend of a loved one who was lost specifically in the 9/11 attacks and/ or someone who was either responsible for bringing about justice or was the family/ friend of someone who was avenged. Can either be within or without the law …
So - there you have it. Thats your tax dollar hard at work.
Today, much of London has been gridlocked by the TUC march.
It’s never a bad thing that people want to engage in our democracy by demonstrating (even where the motivation of many lies in self-interest) but this afternoon’s attack on Fortnum and Mason is quite revealing.
The ’secret target’ mooted during the day was unveiled as F&M’s flagship store on Piccadilly, and it was subsequently occupied by UK Uncut.
Why there? I’m an avid reader of Private Eye and they’ve never been mentioned in the tax avoidance debate. So, what about their owners? Fortunately this isn’t a great corporate conspiracy. It’s all on Wikipedia. Fortnum is owned by Wittington Investments Limited, which in turn is is 79.2% owned by the Garfield Weston Foundation, and 20.8% owned by members of the Weston family.
And what of the Garfield Weston Foundation? Well, it’s actually one of the UK’s largest grant-making trusts.
From it’s 2009 annual report:
“This year, the Trustees have supported 1518 appeals out of a total of 3513 applications, which is a slight increase over last year. While the annual income has remained at a similar level to last year (around £38.5 million) the total cash donations of £37.6 million are lower than last year £41.1 million. This, however, is a reflection of the need for the Trustees’ to be prudent in order to bring their reserves up to a more conservative level following the substantial commitment to Oxford University of £25 million last year towards the development of the Bodleian Library. The figure of £37.6 million includes the second tranche of
£10 million of this grant and the Trustees are committed to pay the final £5 million next year. The Trustees have also been mindful of the possibility of requests for urgent funding being made by charities which have had their funding from other sources cut due to the difficult economic conditions and wished to maintain some temporary reserves to cover such eventuality.”
Additionally, F&M’s managing director, Beverly Aspinall, joined from that other great corporate evil, (sarcasm, by the way) the John Lewis Partnership, where she’d been for 24 years.
So, the demonstrators chose to attack a company with a female MD that has just funded one of Britain’s top libraries, that donated £37.6m to good causes in 2009 alone, and is building up reserves to help charities hit by the spending cuts.
Many have suggested the motives of many in the current protests is nothing to do with politics and everything to do with prejudice. Today, we saw conclusive proof.
UPDATE: UK Uncut have issued a press release, on the occupation. It’s quite remarkable. Here’s the link to the action:
F&M is owned by Whittington Investments. Whittington also owns a 54% share of Associated British Foods. They allege ABF have dodged over £40 million in tax.
So - hang on - Fortnum and Mason hasn’t actually done anything wrong? Nor has its parent company. ABF has. And the only link is that the two companies have mutual shareholders. But they’re occupying F&M. Indeed, the headline reads “UK Uncut occupy tax dodgers Fortnum and Mason.” - then goes on to describe how they are not.
One ABF owned business is Primark. So, why not occupy Primark? Thankfully, the release includes a quote from Sally Mason, a Uk Uncut supporter from Manchester who is currently occupying Fortnum & Mason. Her quote is quite illuminating, for it includes the line: “Fortnum & Mason is a symbol of wealth and greed. It is where the Royal Family and the super-rich do their weekly shop.”
Yes, they do make expensive things. Including a ‘Royal blend’ tea. Then again, prices of that start at £1.50 - hardly super rich territory.
I know, Ed Balls being hypocritical? I was gobsmacked too. Surely not!
Well, earlier today, on Nicky Campbell’s Radio 5 show, Balls went on the attack over fuel duty and VAT. Here’s what he had to say:
“I don’t think George Osborne understands what it is like to be an ordinary motorist turning up at the pumps because actually for many people it really bites in the household budget on a weekly basis.”
This would be a man who, when in government, enjoyed a household income of £300,000 for several years, and before that was paid £100k for less than a year’s workfor the Smith Institute.
Ed’s political strategy seems to be having his (very expensive) cake and eating it, and then hoping nobody calls him out when he says it’s from Asda.
Well, Ed, as your election result shows, the public aint buying that particular brand of BS.
Posted: March 16th, 2011
, Labour party
Tags: ed balls
Comments: 1 Comment
Yesterday Labour were back to their favourite pasttime - shouting about how many jobs the Government could create if only it had more tax pennies and pounds to play with. (110,000 apparently, just from a new bank tax. Although that is paying for a VAT cut on petrol too…)
So I was amazed to see this report (published in November 2010) which showed a staggering half of all Future Jobs Fund placements ended with the individual back on benefits.
Interestingly, there is a big step - after six months, 10 per cent were back on benefits. After seven months, that figure jumps to 50%. FJF jobs lasted six months, and what these figures make clear is how many of them were not real, value-adding jobs. Of the other half, I’d wager many were not careers and were still in publicly subsidised positions of some sort.
The Future Jobs Fund was not a way of creating jobs, it was an incredibly inefficient and expensive way of giving Labour MPs an easy statistic to put on their leaflets.
Anyone would think Gordon Brown and Ed Balls were creating short term, taxpayer-funded jobs to mask an underlying problem that in reality Labour had no clue how to solve, and had arguably made worse during their time in government. They could then take credit for the jobs they ‘created’ for political gain.
All on the public credit card.
A business without capital grows slower. A business without cash goes bust. So why is all the debate about lending?
The government has made much recently of ensuring that SMEs have access to lending. Rightly so, as without access to capital investing in growth is often all but impossible. However, given we have just come out of a recession, is that really the issue for most businesses?
In reality, I expect not. Over the past few months I’ve been self-employed and the single biggest problem I faced was getting paid. My experience of working in SMEs is not dissimilar - and I expect most businesses have not been worrying about borrowing to finance investment, but about having enough cash to make payroll.
So why don’t we do something about it?
The nature of being an SMEs is that you are dependent on being part of a supply chain. That supply chain usually led by a bigger company. When the top of the supply chain comes under pressure - say it’s a retailer needing to discount to keep hard-up customers - the pressure flows down the supply chain. Rarely is profit margin lost at the top of the chain.
One recent way this pressure has been exerted is to extend the payment period for suppliers. 30 day payment was ditched, in favour of upto 120 days. So you have to pay your staff four times before your company gets paid once. And inevitably, refusing to accept the new terms doesn’t mean you keep the old terms - it means you loose the contract.
Given most people in this country work for SMEs, it would surely be a politically savvy move to help them? Yet all we have is rhetoric on lending and access to public sector contracts - neither of which are the reason small companies fold.
Small businesses have felt the brunt of red tape more than large ones, and employment regulations add a disproportionately large amount of cost. Isn’t it time we levelled the playing field a bit?
I think we are now at a time where we need a legal payment term - perhaps 60 days - and extend unfair contract terms legislation to cover it.
It would cost Government nothing, and arguably do more to help small businesses than any other piece of legislation for decades. It would also support the development of innovative ideas and technologies, which are often born in SMEs, boosting the wider economy. Furthermore, competition would be improved as small companies would have greater cashflow security and therefore the ability to negotiate harder.
I see this as win-win for SMEs, the UK economy and corporate governance. So where’s our champion to make it happen?
Posted: February 21st, 2011
, Ideas for living
Comments: 1 Comment
Replacing a journalist who made his name in the ‘tomorrows chip wrapper’ mentality of showbiz journalism with a broadcast news editor will ensure the Coalition is seen well in coming months. The GVs of Cameron, Clegg et al will be fresh, dynamic and show the team in a positive light.
This in itself is no bad thing. As Guido blogged last week, many felt David Cameron needed a TV expert as a “director of communications who understands televisual imagery” and I agree entirely with what he says. Cameron (and indeed the coalition) needs someone to present it in the best light, no mean feat given the difficult decisions the Government is taking.
But this falls into what I think is a common problem that modern politicians often fail to comprehend - the difference between presentation and communication.
Last year I blogged a speech given by Edward R. Murrow, the journalist who did so much to finally end the McCarthy-era of American politics, to what is now the the Radio Television Digital News Association’s Convention on October 15, 1958.
One quote seems particularly apt in light of Craig Oliver’s appointment.
“During the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.”
The Coalition is embarking on an enormous task, tackling Labour’s economic legacy of a dangerously unbalanced economy, out-of-control public spending and the defecit that both of those approaches caused.
Yet the public will not be appeased with warm images and reassuring soundbites. The Coalition has yet to establish it’s own narrative on cutting public spending or indeed set it in context of the alternative - much higher taxes for all. This requires a more strategic, long-term view and as difficult as it may be politically, looking beyond short-term factors like polling, by-elections and indeed local elections.
The Big Society is a concept which could transform the British way of life, endearing a sense of civic responsibility not seen for generations, based on a balanced and vibrant, low-tax economy. David Cameron’s determination to bring this vision to fruition, despite the catastrophic legacy he inherited, is one of the reasons he may well go on to achieve more than any Prime Minister in living memory.
It cannot be achieved through a series of headlines - it requires a culture shift.
Alastair Campbell forumlated a style of campaigning (and indeed governing) based around Objective, Strategy, Tactics. With the appointment of another headline driven journalist, the coalition must not allow itself to become obsessed with strategy and tactics, or risk sight of achieveing its objective.
The Coalition’s challenge to ensure the public not only understand the objective but share it will be the difference between the middle classes (and indeed aspirational working classes) supporting the Government, or believeing it has betrayed them.
This morning, George Monbiot dropped a proverbial policy-bombshell thats annoyed pretty much everyone, myself included. Guido, Mark Wallace and The Telegraph’s Ed West have all gone to town on the article, with the word ‘facist’ being bounded around a little too easily for my liking.
Let’s be clear - I certainly do not support any proposal which would see the Government forcing people to take strangers into their home. I’ve a funny feeling neither does George Monbiot, but that’s beside the point.
But the status quo can’t really be a viable option either? House prices rocketed on a debt bubble inflated by cheap mortgages, but the underlying pressure was the gap between supply and demand growing at an alarming pace. And of course, the soaring Housing Benefit bill is a by-product of this bubble.
We need alternatives, and however much you disagree with George Monbiot at least he’s proposing something. Where are the other solutions? If he’d written an article arguing for people to be moved from under-occupied social housing to smaller properties, I can’t help but feel the reaction would have been very different.
All Governments are caught in a paradox between building houses and the feel-good factor that comes with rising house prices. Monbiot wants less building, and as a result has to come up with more radical alternatives. Those who want more building - myself included - need to come up with ways to actually build more houses.
I think Monbiot’s wrong to argue against more building. According to the DCLG, just 9.9% of Britain is “developed” with only 5.4% of the country’s land mass accounted for by residential homes and gardens. Under the last government house building under Labour fell to its lowest level since 1946, even with centralised targets driving the process.
We need an era of housebuilding, private, social and council, that will make housing affordable again. Housebuilders and land owners cannot be allowed to distort the market by strangling supply, and banks cannot be allowed to distort demand with high-risk mortgages.
In his article, Monbiot proposes four things (alongside new building) to address the problem:
- Introduce a measure of housing occupation (a “footprint”)
- End the single-person 25% council tax discount
- A tax on under-occupation (he say’s “big”)
- Expanding the Homeshare scheme
To me, the first and last are hardly controversial. While there are cost implications for the footprint, expanding an existing charity can be done without any compulsory action and might be very interesting in terms of dealing with social and sheltered housing.
The tax proposals are hardly revolutionary - council tax is a badly out-dated system much in need of reform, and issues like this highlight how unsuitable it is. The single person discount is well meaning but a short-term fix that doesn’t address the underlying issue. In terms of taxing under-occupation, it’s worth remembering that people in such properties already have higher overheads in terms of utilities and the like, so to some extent this is already happening.
It’s absolutely right that much more energy needs to be put into bringing currently derelict homes back onto the market. Cutting VAT on these renovations would help in this regard, but even if we brought all 1 million derelict houses back onto the market, we’re still 4.8m short of what the Government thinks we’ll need over the next 22 years.
Equally, this is connected to the debate about second home ownership and the impact that has on prices. I see no reason why in an age of decentralisation and local decision making local communities should be able to influence the sale of properties which will not be available on the local accommodation market (either rented or owned.)
Part of the problem with this debate is the British (perhaps English) attitude to property, and in particular property ownership. Logically, it seems perfectly sensible to move to a smaller house and reduce your overheads as your accommodation needs fall, or vice-versa as your needs grow. But for some reason, as a nation we are relatively unique in our attitude to bricks and mortar being some kind of spiritual extension of ourselves.
Furthermore, architectural practices focusing on low-rise property have barely changed in a century, save for the boom in city apartments. The suburban trend of two story buildings makes poor use of the development we do have - build higher has been a continental norm for decades.
Of course, perhaps the greatest irony will be the number of people who are up in arms about today’s article who find themselves on the same side of the argument as Monbiot when trying to stop housing development on green belt land near them.