Monday, February 23, 2004

BPI ATTEMPT TO TURN BACK TIDE. AGAIN: Having attempted - and failed - to try and force CD Wow to charge the prices the BPI want for CDs, the UK music price fixing cartel has come to a "settlement" with Play.com. Play has promised the BPI it won't source recordings outside of the EU for sale back to the UK. The BPi claims that this is "contravening UK copyright law", although it's not entirely clear how and the BPI's chairman Peter Jamieson said "Ello, mate... little bird tells me you're trying to undercut us. Now, me and my friends, we ain't too keen on people trying to cut their way into our cosy market, and we might be forced to do a little cutting of our own" ("All British-based record companies and all retailers - offline or online - are adversely affected when product specifically designated for markets outside of Europe flows back into the UK. It is impossible to invest in, develop and market new British talent if we do not protect our legal rights to prevent parallel importing.")

We have some trouble with this. Firstly, Play is based in Jersey and so not actually in the EU anyway - more or less - so its hard to see why it would be strictly wrong of it to use non-EU CDs anyway. Secondly, it's worth pointing out that what we're talking about here are records that are produced by British labels, and then shipped off for sale elsewhere at prices lower than the identical item sold within these shores. Now, if we accept that the prices are set in the UK to ensure that there is money left over for the record labels to re-invest in their industry, why on earth aren't the labels also charging that same price overseas? Surely the record industry would be the only one in the world to say to foreign customers "tell you what, we were going to charge you ten quid a unit, but we'll knock the research and development costs off seeing as you're overseas and call it seven fifty?" And even if Jamieson isn't lying and trying to pretend that the supernormal profit being charged in the UK market is actually being used to create new talent - why on earth does he think that everyone in Britain would think it absolutely fair that we pay more for CDs to develop that talent? What's the deal here? "Ah, Tony, we should pay fifteen quid for this CD, so that the British music industry can develop more talent to sell cheaply overseas" - in effect, Jameison's cockeyed logic is that British consumers should cheerfully subsidise the enjoyment of music lovers overseas. Now, you know, I'm happy to pay a few pence extra for Cds if it really would help new artists, but shouldn't everyone who buys music pay a slice? And if the idea is to have extra cash in the music industry piggy bank to help out new British talent, why does a CD by an act developed by the American or Canadian industry not cost less in the UK market?


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