EMI’s former man in Ireland sets the record straight
The label’s Irish arm has shut some 25 years after Willie Kavanagh rescued it. Despite the industry’s woes, he feels the war against piracy can still be won
“The criticisms were valid – from the outside looking in,” he says. The perception was that the record industry was “a bunch of idiots in pinstripe suits smoking cigars, and that when they wake up their business will be over.”
Battling the pirates
Deficiencies in copyright laws needed to be addressed, says Kavanagh. “The problem is we didn’t have the copyright laws to allow us to deal with the issue. And some people in the industry weren’t dealing with the fact that copyright laws needed to change, but it took us a long time.”
Kavanagh, who is still chairman of Irma (the Irish Recorded Music Association), has been at the forefront of lobbying against illegal downloading for many years. “Through my work with Irma, Ireland to a large degree is now the poster boy for Europe for the amount of litigation we’ve done with ISPs [internet service providers].”
In 2011, he says, Irish copyright laws were changed by statutory instrument, allowing Irma to attack piracy via a three- pronged strategy: the legal snagging of peer-to-peer file-sharing, website blocking, and a URL delisting programme currently being developed with the assistance of Google (which Kavanagh estimates will be “fully operational by early September”).
Critics may point out that such endeavours have arrived too late, but Kavanagh is cautiously optimistic. “When the copyright laws moved favourably in New Zealand, it turned the music industry around. Ditto in France. So yes, the horse has bolted, but there are very long reins and they’re going to be pulled back in. You have to get it into the mindset of people that music isn’t free, and if you have to pay for it then someone or some company is going to reinvest in music.”
Kavanagh’s future employment plans are open-ended and open-minded.
“Technically, I’m now on the social slag heap, but realistically I’ve had a number of approaches to do a number of things, it may or may not have anything to do with the music business. Doing nothing isn’t an option, but not doing very much might be.”
What of the demise of EMI Ireland? He had been its head honcho for almost 25 years. “It might be the end of an era for people in a building, but not for people who love music. That doesn’t go away, it lives on.”