How to contact Kim Howells and tell him what a plonker he’s been…

01/21/2003

Thanks to Matthew Davis, George Wright and Tim Duckett for writing in with various e-mail addresses for Dr Kim Howells, the Minister for Culture who so resolutely confused music piracy online with drug-dealing and prostitution and in the process declared that Robbie Williams supported international gangs and terrorism. If you wish to have a go at explaining to the gentleman in question exactly where his logic went wrong, his address is kim.howells@culture.gov.uk. Here’s my e-mail. Try as I might, I couldn’t stop myself sounding smug and superior…

Dear Doctor Howells,
     I was disappointed to notice that you recently conflated internet piracy of music (as ‘advocated’ by Robbie Williams) with the selling of fake CDs, videos and tapes. They are – as I’m sure you’ve now been informed thousands of times – completely different issues. The most significant difference is that not even record companies have found any ways yet to sell music online and make money out of it – which is clearly untrue about physical media. That criminals could have exploited this non-market as a way of laundering their profits is at best unlikely and at worst ridiculous.
     The kind of piracy that Mr Williams was talking about is conducted by members of the public putting songs online (either through peer to peer technologies or simply on the web) for other members of the public to download. While this is clearly a morally questionable act that’s been debated in the press over and over again, there doesn’t appear to be any way to make any money out of it whatsoever. This fact is known to the many millions of Britons who have used applications like Napster to download music.
     That the government I voted for could be quite so clueless about things like this – particularly in the area of culture where intellectual property issues, copyright and digital distribution are huge emerging issues – is frankly terrifying to me! Perhaps you should find some way of keeping yourself informed about such matters before standing up and making a fool of yourself (and by association me for voting for you).
     Yours faithfully,
     Tom Coates
     http://www.plasticbag.org