John Cridland: Our creative industries are at a fork in the road

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The Independent Online

The creative industries make a big contribution to our economic success. They represent more than 6 per cent of GDP, employ well over 2 million people, and export more than £17bn every year.

The sector also helps to put Britain on the map. Think of the success of The King's Speech, or that UK artists recently took the top three spots in the US album charts for the first time since 1985, or the many television exports, from Downton Abbey to Doctor Who.

Talent, ideas and content are the industry's currency. And intellectual-property (IP) rights are what give that currency value. Without them, artists and producers have no incentive to invest or create.

The review of IP led by Ian Hargreaves presents a fork in the road for the UK as a world-class home for creative industries. Professor Hargreaves has been asked to look at how the IP system can best support growth in a digital world. The review has been looking at a range of options, from promoting access to the market, to allowing more use of copyrighted material.

The right path for the Hargreaves review has to be one that focuses on promoting market access to make it easier for businesses and individuals to access legitimately and pay for copyrighted material.

A move to erode IP rights would undermine future investment in our creative industries. Without the certainty of being able to make an economic return on investment in content, and through secondary rights for use online and exports around the world, enthusiasm would dry up for investment in music, television and film.

Digitalisation is blurring product boundaries, making geographical boundaries increasingly meaningless and creating multiple channels to market. The industry is rising to these challenges through innovation. iTunes, Spotify and Lovefilm are now widely used to access music and film online, all on a successful commercial basis.

This is a global marketplace, and we need to stay one step ahead to maintain our position as a world leader in the creative industries. Talent can so easily relocate and, already, countries such as Canada, France and Ireland are offering very attractive tax regimes in an attempt to lure business.

So we need to think long and hard before making changes to our world-class IP regime, a deal-breaker when it comes to deciding how and where creative industries invest. The right calls could result in the UK building its market share and increasing its export potential. But the wrong decisions could seriously rewrite the nation's creative growth story.

the writer is director-general at the CBI