There is a need for further regulation to help tackle piracy, a U.K. government cabinet member told the annual general meeting for PPL, the record labels' and performers' royalties collecting society.

Member of parliament Alan Johnson, the AGM's guest keynote speaker, is the current U.K. secretary of state for health. He has also been tipped as a possible prime minister, should Gordon Brown vacate the position.

Johnson has had extensive dealings with the music industry during his stint as secretary of state for education and skills in 2006, and his ministerial post at the department of trade and industry in 1999.

He noted the uncertainty generated by the Internet, which has made music more accessible to consumers but also vulnerable to piracy.

"Music is better now in terms of variety and choice; music is everywhere because of the Internet," he says, comparing today's business with his youthful days in the 1960s, when music media was restricted to the public broadcaster BBC and pirate radio.

"But that has caused you so many problems because governments and regulators have not kept pace," he declared.

Johnson noted that deregulation of banks in previous years had been blamed for that sector's more recent problems, and so did not recommend a lack of regulation surrounding the activities of the music industry.

"We don't want the dark days of piracy, but we're now back in a period where people see the need for regulation, but with a light touch to allow for competition," he said.

However, Johnson gave no clue about the contents of the forthcoming Digital Britain report, which is due this month.

From his experience as a lawmaker, he advised the industry to learn to be louder and more articulate when seeking legislative solutions. He said this was particularly vital in the fight to extend the duration of copyright protection for performers and producers.

Currently, U.K. and European Union legislation protects copyright for labels and performers for 50 years from the year the sound recording was made. The music industry had wanted the protection extended to 95 years, as in the United States.

In April, the European Parliament voted to extend protection to 70 years. Labels and performers' representatives, however, still need to fight to get the proposed 70-year extension incorporated into law, which is decided by the member countries in the European Council.

For that, Johnson advised, "you need a political voice in this industry; you need to punch above your weight in your lobbying [strategies]."

He said that he keeps up to date with issues concerning the sector via his son Jamie, a professional musician and recording engineer who has worked with Paul Weller, Razorlight and David Gilmour.

"I live most of my love for music through my son, who has been in the business for about 20 years," Johnson told the PPL AGM audience. "But it has not been an easy way to make a living."

The AGM took place today (June 3) at London's Kings Place conference complex.