The shadow Culture Secretary, Harriet Harman, has spoken out against music piracy, accusing the Government of being too lax on those breaking the law and too concerned with reducing its budget deficit.
Ms Harman, who is due to give a speech on the future of the music industry at the University of Hertfordshire today, has warned a growth in piracy will harm those making music. She told The Independent: "They are letting down the creators of content, the musicians, who are having their content ripped off. They are letting down and deterring investors, and they are letting down the taxpayers.
"The Government's emphasis on cutting the deficit crushes out their ability to engage with innovation."
She said Britain needed an equivalent to Cass Sunstein, President Barack Obama's tsar in charge of regulating the internet, in place of a plethora of UK agencies with overlapping responsibilities whose job is to protect copyright. Google and other providers should be involved in making sure music is free on the net only when artists want to give it away – as they sometimes do – and not because it has been stolen, she added.
"Young people are massively connected with music. They not only want to use the music but they want to actually work in the music industry, many of them. Many of them want a future in the industry. Therefore the industry must have a future. That means public policy action, not just standing back and saying 'we are too busy to do any of this; we're just going to cut the deficit and let the free market rip content off from creators'. Every day they don't act, money is haemorrhaging."
Last week, users of a popular website called RnBXclusive, got a jolt when they logged on hoping to download free R&B tracks. They got a message from the Serious Organised Crime Agency, announcing it had taken down the site and warning that anyone who has downloaded music from it could be liable for prosecution.
To some of the site's young users, this was the heavy hand of authority ruining their internet fun. But Ms Harman said that the Government has so far been too lax in letting the pirates get away with it.