Copyright, copywrongs and Professor Hargreaves

Today’s Observer column.

Watching British politicians engage with technology companies is a bit like listening to maiden aunts wondering if they would look better in thongs. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, to name just two such aunts, fantasised that Microsoft was cool, and spent years trying to associate themselves (and New Labour) with Bill Gates – even going to the lengths of making the Microsoft boss an honorary knight. Then we had the equally ludicrous spectacle of Cameron and co believing that Google is cool, which is why its CEO, Eric Schmidt – who for these purposes is the Google Guys’ representative on Earth – was an honoured guest at Cameron’s first party conference as leader. Given that, it’s only a matter of time before Ed Miliband discovers that Facebook is the new cool. And so it will go on.

Cameron’s worship of Google did, however, have one tangible result. Mortified by the Google Guys' assertion that the UK’s intellectual property regime would have made it impossible to launch their company in the UK, he decided to commission an inquiry into said regime under the chairmanship of Professor Ian Hargreaves.