Hewitt pledges crackdown on copyright theft

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The Independent Online

A national strategy to combat the theft of intellectual property rights is to be launched this summer by the Government.

A national strategy to combat the theft of intellectual property rights is to be launched this summer by the Government.

The initiative, announced yesterday by the Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt, will bring together the work of the various agencies and government departments involved in the task and set out priorities for tackling copyright pirating, with particular emphasis on creative industries such as music and film, design and publishing, fashion, computer games and architecture.

Ministers also plan to improve the processing of information about the infringement of intellectual property rights to strengthen the enforcement of copyright laws. The first meeting of the strategy group, chaired by the Science minister Lord David Sainsbury and Estelle Morris, the Arts minister, will take place in the middle of next month.

Ms Hewitt said that the creative industries were one of the biggest contributors to the UK economy and yet they could not exist without the proper protection of intellectual property. Together the creative industries employ 2 million people in Britain, account for about 8 per cent of output and contribute £11.4bn to the balance of trade. The music industry alone is reckoned to generate 130,000 UK jobs and contribute £5bn to the economy.

Addressing a City audience at the headquarters of the US investment bank Citigroup in London's Docklands, Ms Hewitt said that an estimated 7 per cent of the world's trade was accounted for by counterfeit goods and that piracy was undermining the ability of the UK to benefit from the sale of creative talent abroad. "We cannot and will not tolerate this," she added, urging industry to join forces to help tackle the problem.

Ms Hewitt also called on the investment community to be more supportive of the country's creative industries and to stop viewing them as being "flaky, style-orientated and superficial - more subsidy oriented than hard-nosed business".

Highlighting a poll of investors which showed that only 22 per cent were likely to put their money into creative industries compared with 42 per cent ready to lend to pharmaceuticals. Ms Hewitt said: "We cannot afford to ignore these creative companies. That means investing in both our successful creative industries and companies embracing creativity more widely across the economy."