Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

One step closer to a law against music piracy?

There is no such thing as a quiet week for those keeping tabs on how the record industry is coping with the ups and downs of digital music. The focus worldwide of late has been on moves by record labels …

Fri, Feb 29, 2008, 08:24

   

There is no such thing as a quiet week for those keeping tabs on how the record industry is coping with the ups and downs of digital music.

The focus worldwide of late has been on moves by record labels lobbying governments to force internet service providers (ISPs) to curb illegal file-sharing.

The major labels have become increasingly shrill in their criticisms of ISPs of late, saying this sector have unfairly profited off the back of recorded music. Paul McGuinness’s recent MIDEM speech contained several digs of this variety.

The record industry would like the ISPs to terminate the internet connections of persistent illegal file-sharers. However, ISPs have been pointing out that it’s not as easy as that.

British culture secretary Andy Burnham entered the fray this week and it was obvious from his comments that record industry lobbyists earned their fat fees.

Burnham told the ISPs to come up with a workable plan to curb music and movie piracy or the government would bring in their own legislation to deal with this next year.

Internet and legal experts believe that such a move, which is already in train in France, would face huge technical, legal and consumer hurdles were it to be implemented.

With a new survey pointing to the fact that one in five British internet users have admitted to illegally downloading copyrighted material, it does appear to be another instance of the record industry reacting too late.

Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and editor of Wired magazine, believes that technological advances have turned music into a “free” product.

“Between digital reproduction and peer-to-peer distribution, the real cost of distributing music has truly hit bottom,” says Anderson in the current issue of Wired.

“The product has become free because of sheer economic gravity. That force is so powerful that laws, guilt trips, DRM, and every other barrier to piracy the labels can think of have failed.”

The solution? Anderson points to cross-subsidisation, where acts and labels give away free music “as a way of marketing concerts, merchandise, licensing, and other paid fare”.

Good news, yet again, for established bands and heritage acts.

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