Vanessa Barnett from law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner was the first keynote speaker at this morning’s Westminster eForum on File-Sharing, Copyright and the Digital Consumer.She puts the challenge bluntly: “Copying is just too easy, and stopping it is too hard.” And why is it too easy? “Not just because it’s practically easy, but because it’s emotionally easy. And this is a relatively new thing.”Barnett says that when she was young, she knew it was wrong to copy CDs and give them to her friends. But also that she felt emotional peer pressure not to copy – “because it was wrong”. But Barnett says the thing that’s changed now is that “people don’t feel in their hearts like it’s wrong… we’ve lost the battle for hearts and minds over copyright law”.So the challenge is less about drafting copyright law, as it is about whether copyright law has a place at all.Barnett cites the recent International Chamber of Commerce report on counterfeiting and piracy, which claimed that digital piracy could cost Europe 240 billion Euros and 1.2 million jobs by 2015.”We may now need to accept that times have changed, that society places a different value now on what we do,” she says.”Should sharing digital copies within certain thresholds be permitted so we don’t criminalise a generation? In other words, do we change the law to match behaviour?”Barnett stresses she’s not lobbying for this – “I’m putting this out there as a question”. And she moves on to describe the Digital Economy Act as a “rush-job”, and one that’s been harmful from a hearts and minds perspective.

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