Wednesday, November 15, 2006

We must have missed the marches

Here's a surprising fact: the majority of British consumers want to pay more for their music.

Oh, hang on. Maybe they don't.

In support of the push to try and extend the term of copyright in recorded works to an eye-watering 95 years, the BPI have co-opted you, me and everybody and is claiming that we're all gagging for copyright extension:

New research shows a majority of British consumers support the record industry’s battle for extended copyright protection for UK artists.

62 per cent of those polled agreed that UK artists should be protected for the same number of years as their American counterparts, by extending the term of copyright for sound recordings from its current 50 years to 95 years.

The YouGov poll, commissioned by the BPI, the British recording industry trade association, found only 20 per cent of respondents did not agree that copyright should be brought in line with the US, while 18 per cent were unsure.

It's unclear from the BPI's treatment of the report it commissioned exactly what the 62% who were polled was being asked. Interestingly, YouGov does publish results of surveys it conducts on its website, but only when the commissioning organisation agrees. We wonder why the BPI hasn't elected to allow the survey to be published and instead just ripped a single figure and no clear indication of the question they were responding to. It's almost as if they're afraid that the actual results might not support them, or something.

We do know that the respondents were drawn from the YouGov panel - who, while weighted to represent the UK demographic for various surveys, are drawn from people who actively volunteer to join. YouGov encourages these volunteers by offering cash for completing questionaires. Which doesn't make their figures automatically suspect, but does raise a question over how random their sample is - all their panels are all self-selecting respondents who get a payday for providing answers.

YouGov conduct all their polling online - in other words, they somehow manage to claim a representative cross-section of the nation despite having no way of including the over 30% of adults who've never used the internet [source: Office of National Statistics, cited in Citizens Online]. So even without the BPI's reticence to fully declare the exact details of the survey making it hard to judge the value of their headline figure, it's questionable how representative this really is anyway.

The BPI have also published a little booklet for the benefit of MPs[pdf] considering the proposal, in which they explain how extending the length of copyright in recordings will fund the glorious British music industry's investment in A&R for the good of future generations. (Although, of course, the "British music industry" mainly consists of the Germano-Japanese Sony-BMG, the American Warners, the French Universal and plucky little British EMI.)

We're slightly confused by this, though: didn't Cliff Richard tell everybody that the extension in copyright terms was intended to provide artists with a pension in their old age? How can it simultaneously be shoring up profit and loss in the record companies and keeping ageing rockers in red wine and slippers?

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