Thursday, 11 August 2016

Tape your head on

I was clearing out a cupboard the other day and I came across some red tape.  A sudden feeling of untramelled anger and rage overtook me until my head started to hurt and I had to go for a lie down.  As soon as I felt a bit better I immediately set fire to the red tape with an industrial blowtorch that I keep for such occasions. No trace of this evil will remain in my abode.  Stupid red tape, coming over here from the EU without being asked, making presents and gifts look better than they really are, decorating things that don't rightfully need decorated.  Incineration is too good for red tape.  It needs to be cut first.  Cut, cut, cut away all the red tape until there is none left, until we have even forgotten about the concept of red tape, until we obliterate the collective memory that the wrapping of gifts and presents used to be more complicated than it ever needed to be.
We all hate red tape.  I advise fatally wounding it with a knife before giving it a speedy cremation.
This post is going to be about EU red tape.  If you are a UK manufacturer, importer or retailer of red tape you might want to know if you will still have a business in 2019.  You might want to know what kind of red tape will govern your red tape business interests in a post-red tape world.  You might even want to know if you can secure all that defunct red tape by tying it up with red tape.  Personally, I recommend using Union Jack tape for all your office needs.

When politicans say that they want to "cut away all that EU red tape" what do they really mean?  It's rare to hear UK politicians expanding on the meaning of unnecessary regulation by pin-pointing a specific directive that might serve as a barrier to British glory.  Instead, general attacks on EU regulation seem to follow the pattern of attacks on the ECHR.  The attacks just keep coming unchecked until an idea forms in the hive UK mind that regulation and human rights are the biggest threats to wealth and happiness.

Can you imagine a politican arguing for more regulation?  It's bad, right?  Is it still bad when it sets safety standards or regulates the operation of a free market?  It depresses me when I hear politicos attacking the  EU regulatory framework without first considering what might replace it.  After all, pre-industrial Europe wasn't exactly over-burdened by regulation.  Do they really imagine an idyllic land where, freed from all that EU fuss and nonsense, you can have your teeth extracted at the barbers and still have enough money left over for "something for the weekend" that may or may not be box-fresh.

It is true that there is a lot of regulation in the EU.  Should we be surprised?  There is a lot of regulation in Australia and Canada as well.  Could anyone from Auckland tell me every single New Zealand regulation affecting employee relations, import restrictions, river water standards, bankruptcy procedure, adoption, food preparation or airport noise monitoring.  I could go on but this blog is supposed to be an entertaining read.  The EU certainly has a lot of directives and regulations.  In that regard, it is a bit like tiny Switzerland, a country that pretty much quotes the national constitution in your electricity contract.  It is also one of the wealthiest countries per head of population.  These two facts are surely not uncorrelated.

Let's have a look at some of this EU red tape and see how it might impede the progress of society.  Here is a completely random example of some EU legislation - Directive 2012/28/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on certain permitted uses of orphan works.   This seems like a pretty good idea to me.  All that has happened here is that the EU laid down some rules about the use of copyrighted material.  More specifically, the EU has formalised the steps that need to be taken to identify and classify an orphaned work.  To aid that process it has even compiled a database of orphaned works.  If you are worried that your business might be misusing copyright and leaving the door open to later legal challenges then worry no more because the EU has given you the legislatory tools to protect your business.  On the other hand, if you are a rights holder and make a claim of copyright misuse then you know exactly what documentary trail the defendant should have left behind if they had acted honourably throughout.

Let's imagine you run a smoking hot media company in Scunthorpe and you're worried about using some copyrighted material in a promotional video of the local blast furnace.  Maybe you found a recording of some of that incredible dissonant-harmonic Bulgarian choir music and wanted to bung it lazily over the end credits.  The problem you face is that you're not sure if it is Bulgarian or Romanian.  Hmm, what are the rules for orphaned works in Bulgaria?  What are they in Romania?  If you only distribute the video in the UK how does any of that apply to your business?   What if you wanted to sell the video at Bochum Marktplatz? Time to call the lawyers in all 4 countries.  If only there was some kind of centralised regulatory body that unified the legislation of orphaned copyright throughout Continental Europe.  If only that existed you could avoid 28 searches through 28 independent frameworks of legal red tape.  If only we had something like that. If only.

It's diaphonic, antiphonal, microtonal and free-metered but who does it belong to?
I know it's boring but let's imagine for a bit longer that you run a smoking hot media company in Scunthorpe.  It really is rather boring so let's sex it up a bit: the UK has now left the EU.  That got your attention, didn't it?  In order to take back control, the UK has replaced the EU directive on orphaned works with its own.  It's not exactly the same, though, because that would make everyone look a bit stupid.  Maybe the UK maintains its own database of orphaned works.   Maybe it even maintains its own database of copyrighted works.  Suddenly, you need to interface with two separate systems to get legal clearance for your video.  That's a bit annoying, isn't it? Uh oh, there's a problem.  The UK database has revealed a UK-wide holder of the copyright, while the EU database identifies it as an orphaned work.  Ok, just do the video without the Bulgarian choir.  No, don't do that because they go crazy for that antiphonal shit in Bochum - sales will collapse without the diaphonic crescendo.  You know full well that the good burghers of Bochum just can't get enough of free-metered Balkan polyphony on the end credits of a blast furnace promotional video.  Do two videos, then: one edit for the EU and overdub Scarborough Fair performed by the King's Singers on the end of the UK version. Uh oh, another problem.  The edit department is now demanding more money to do two edits.  The lawyer is demanding more money for two database searches.  The video print company is demanding more money to print two different versions. I could go on and on here but I'm sure you get the picture.  If only there was some kind of centralised regulatory body that unified the legislation of orphaned copyright throughout Continental Europe and all of the UK and Ireland.  If only that existed. If only.

This pattern can be repeated for aerosol packagingfood weights and measures,  and hazardous substances in electronic equipment.  I could go on and on and on like this but I can hear you all yawning and that dog isn't doing to stop barking till you take it for a walk.  The truth is we live in a highly regulated world where it is not allowed for businesses to poison the environment or kill their customers.  Also, when you buy a Class II cucumber at the supermarket you should know exactly what you are getting.  Unifying all of this makes it easier for everyone.  

If the UK wants to continue sellling any of its products and services to the EU it is going to have to adopt quite a lot of its regulations and directives.  Just like Switzerland, the UK will work out that having two sets of standards makes no sense at all.  Johnny and Joan Taxpayer might not realise it but they will still be under the cosh of those modern-day EU folkdevils in Strasbourg and Brussels.  This shouldn't be a surprise: what kind of market is it where a single participant sets the price and the terms and the conditions of all of their sales and all of their purchases?  The answer is some weird kind of fantasy market dreamt up by David Davis back when he was a hopeful Leave campaigner.

David Davis lives in a fantasy land where the EU simply doesn't exist and British standards have been universally adopted.
I find it strange that campaigners most against unilateral nuclear disarmament seem to be the ones who campaign most strongly for ulilateral withdrawal from the EU.  Yet, we've just seen that unilateral withdrawal makes no strategic sense at all if you run a smoking hot media company in Scunthorpe.  In fact, the worst thing that could happen for your business is that the EU implodes because that is the outcome that leaves you dealing with the most red tape.   Sure, the EU has a lot of red tape but it is a heck of a lot less than the alternative.  Assuming that David Davis isn't dreaming of a Max Max-style dystopian future, leaving the EU means that UK businesses face dealing with more red tape than ever before.  This is certain to make them less competitive than their German and French and Austrian counterparts.  How could the UK get back its competitive edge?  Hmm, we're back to workers' rights, I'm afraid.

No one likes red tape, right? Cut it, burn it, cut it, burn it, cut it, burn it. Repeat this mantra till your arm is severed by an unregulated threshing machine.   

Over and out,


PS Please remember this post if you ever get the chance to vote UK or EU in a second Scottish Independence referendum.  Leaving the EU makes no sense at all.

PPS I wrote  "... overdub Scarborough Fair performed by the King's Singers" without knowing if that actually existed.  It really was just two random things put together. Of course it exists!  This is life in 2016.  What a time to be alive.


  1. Ah, red tape!

    Doesn't big business want to get rid of it?

    Just like Health and Safety and Human Rights.

    It's a mystery to me why people would want less (or fewer) in the way of human rights, or indeed of health or safety. Nonetheless, with the connivance of the Daily Mail/Express/Sun, gullible people are happy to accept that the sometimes over-zealous officials were not an occasional fluke but the design of ghastly foreigners intent on making GREAT Britain as weak and wobbly as themselves... you know, like Germany and Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and such silly dead loss places.

    I suppose it is even easier to sell the evils of red tape. Lord knows its a pain, but what would happen without all these regulations? I mean we deregulated the banks, and how did that work out again?

    The trouble is that we don't like regulations and "red tape" but we haven't stopped to think that without them the sharp-elbowed ones (an god knows there are plenty of them) would be totally unrestricted in their clamber over normal people en route for the top... even more so than now.

    Still, look on the bright side. At least no one in Europe will be able to regulate the robots!

    1. There is indeed a sense that GB is being lorded over by unelected EU bureaucrats, even though the UK is literally lorded over by unelected lords. The UK also has unelected bureaucrats in the civil service but what sort of world is it where bureaucrats stand for election? Makes no sense at all.

      I looked at about 25 EU directives and would imagine that each of those would have similar UK regulation in some form or other. The problem, as you point out, isn't the regulations themselves itself but that they aren't British regulations. That's the bit that I fail to understand - what kind of human being gets all patriotic about regulatory bodies?

      This is surely a mess. I wonder if we'll look back and realise that the best deal we ever had with the EU was the one we had back in June. With or without robots.

  2. "Please remember this post if you ever get the chance to vote UK or EU in a second Scottish Independence referendum. Leaving the EU makes no sense at all."

    I most certainly will.

    Nice to see Stoneybridge, again.

    1. Couldn't actually watch the video, channel 4 has blocked it, still played in my head though.

    2. I could never forget the Stoneybridge video. In my mind, there was an extra bit where a cat walked across the bridge and one of the Archies said, "more of you later, tabbie". But it's not on youtube. I think I dreamt that up. Reality was never my strong point.

      Sorry that c4 blocked the video. Here in Switzerland copyright disputes are completely different. Next time I will test from a UK IP. Thanks for pointing that out.


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