Wednesday, January 25, 2006


The BBC-assembled panel of the finest minds in the music copyright industry have answered a slew of questions about filesharing; the one we were especially interested in came from a Simon HB in Milton Keynes - hmm, he sounds an interesting chap:

The music industry is throwing itself wholeheartedly into the prosecution of people it perceives as "stealing" music. Can all of the panel place their hands on their hearts and insist, honestly, that they never taped a song off the radio, or from a mate, in their youths?

# John Kennedy, IFPI:

You simply aren't comparing an apple with an apple.

When you use an unauthorised file-sharing service you are effectively acting as a 'mass distributor' as whenever you're online, every other user around the world has the ability to access your hard drive and take what's on it. Not quite the same as making a compilation for your girlfriend on Valentine's Day...

As it happens, I never did copy music off the radio - I was lucky enough to have a great record collection thanks to my brothers and sisters.

# Peter Jamieson, BPI:

There is a misconception that p2p file-sharing is somehow similar to home taping, but there is a world of difference between recording the Top 40 onto a C90 and distributing perfect digital copies of songs over the internet to millions of people - and that's exactly what file-sharing is.

I've certainly never risked a legal bill for thousands of pounds by distributing my music collection to millions over the internet - to do so is to rip off artists and everyone involved in making music.

# Steve Knott, HMV:

I'm sure many, if not all, of us have taped a song from the radio or burnt a CD. But that's fine - and it's not an issue when people make small numbers of copies for their own use. It's those people who abuse the process by engaging in serial downloading and particularly 'uploading', where they are giving away thousands of tracks that are not theirs to give, that are effectively cheating on everybody else, including other music fans, who possibly have to pay more for their legally acquired music as a result.

# Brad Duea, Napster:

Simon, for years I have made compilations - initially vinyl to cassette and now purely digital. Compilations allow me to create my own personalised playlists for all sorts of events. Also, I used to listen to radio and jump to my stereo to record a hot new song.

Today, technology has made this issue a bit more complex and has turned the recording industry on its head. To address the file-sharing issue, we have been working hard to provide a "carrot" - attempting to attract people from file-sharing networks by providing a better experience.

An interesting range of responses. Remember, of course, that back when the cassette tape first became a consumer item, the music industry declared that widespread use of it would kill music, covered their records with warnings that taping music was a criminal activity, tried to instigate legal proceedings against manufacturers of radio-cassette machines on the basis they were sanctioning theft, lobbied for a levy on blank media to be passed direct to music copyright holders.

And yet, John Kennedy says that to compare home taping with people using digital recording methods isn't comparing an "apple with an apple."

Napster's Brad basically admits that he was quite happy to ignore the (I believe) 1956 Act which regulated what we could and couldn't do with other people's copyrighted broadcasts. It's simply ridiculous to pretend that because the technology is now digital and two-way that all of a sudden the law becomes any more significant. Duea can either obey the law, or break the law. You can't sometimes obey the law.

HMV's Knott tries the "nobody minds anyone making small numbers of copies for their own use" approach - oh, really? Then how come the BBC isn't allowed to broadcast its music shows with the ability for people to rewind their player? If "it's not an issue" apart from people uploading their files to internet, why is the industry keen to see a "broadcast flag" to stop people taping from a digital radio stream - effectively, what Brad Duea used to do?

If the idea is simply to stop people mass uploading and sharing, then how come there are limits to what I can do with the music I purchase that have nothing to do with that? Why do CDs have clodding DRM to stop them playing on PCs, not simply preventing downloading but doing as I choose with them?

And if John Kennedy is so relaxed about people making "valentine's CDs for their girlfriends", how come the DRM his organisation's paymasters at the RIAA do everything they can to stop people from making compilation CDs for their girlfriends?

If it's all about stopping uploading and sharing, then where does the push for extended copyright periods come in?

It's wonderful that the panel confessed they have happily ignored the letter of the law in the past, because they knew the rules were stupid. They might like to think through the implications of what that means for their industry.

[Thanks to both Ian Pointer and Zeinab Malik for bringing this to our attention, by the way - we've been moving house all day and offline.]


Anonymous said...

There are so many holes in the answers to the questions it makes me want to scream. Like John Kennedy (Q7): "downloading [illegally] hurts all those whose job it is to create... music, and who depend on it for their livelihood", nice way of playing the guilt trip there. Lets temporarily forget all the super rich executives with their ludicrous bonuses. And conviniently ignore the fact that a bands benefit much more from you going to see them live in concert than buying a 70p download.

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