The Coalition for a Digital Economy tells George Osborne what it wants to hear in the 2012 Budget.
If George Osborne does one thing, we want him to Keep Calm and Carry On.
Internet and online businesses have contributed nearly one quarter of UK growth over the last five years. In Britain we have many innovative entrepreneurs and startups trying to develop digital businesses that contribute to growth. The sector is playing its part in developing initiatives to encourage growth through industry-led flexible working spaces, tech-focused business incubators, and tools for connecting investors with businesses.
Since last year the Coalition has declared its mission to "take on the enemies of enterprise", and some helpful measures have been introduced. The autumn statement brought in tax incentives for early-stage investing and the momentum behind cutting red tape for small businesses are welcome efforts in encouraging the development of the internet economy.
In this economic climate, we cannot realistically ask the Chancellor to do much more. What we need is a regulatory landscape that creates the right environment for tech entrepreneurs and encourages investment in the UK. More tech businesses delving into the world of distributing content like films or music are increasingly finding the copyright system impossible to negotiate. Even the now infamous "Keep Calm and Carry On" slogan is subject to a trademark dispute, effectively halting further commercial use despite it having been developed by the British Government during WWII.
The Hargreaves Review sought to make the copyright system fit for a digital age and we are pleased the Government has backed the recommendations. But the Communications Bill from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is on the horizon. We understand this is likely to include proposals for website blocking, forcing ISPs to police users content, and requiring search engines to artificially promote 'licensed sites', all designed to prop up the music and film business.
Blocking the web is the wrong way to help the creative industries, and it will be UK startups and entrepreneurs who suffer, and will not be able to receive investment in the face of confusing legislation designed to protect old business models against innovative ones.
The government has introduced some very encouraging measures and has sent a strong signal to the world that the UK is a good place to do tech, and we hope that the Chancellor decides to Keep Calm and Carry on.
Sara Kelly is Policy and Development Manager at Coadec, the Coalition for a Digital Economy