It looks like David Cameron might have burped out another policy during his speech to the BPI conference this morning. He dangled the carrot of an extension in music copyright to seventy years [pdf] in return for some-sort-of-ban on violent songs.
David started by flattering his audience through the old trick of telling them lies about themselves they'd like to believe:
Matching business acumen with creative instinct, you have shown you have the dynamism necessary to succeed in the 21st century.
Yes, after just ten years of music being available on the internet they've finally allowed downloads to count in the chart. Still, nice to hear the music industry has been all innovative and successful in the digital age - it must be some other music industry which is constantly wailing about how it's being destroyed and crushed by the new era.
David knows that despite this glorious, ingenious age which the companies have met with witty acumen and business brains aglowing, it's actually not a glorious age at all. Oh no, it is an age of challenges. Threat. Large, black spaceships hovering overhead:
It also presents incredible challenges.
And it is two of those challenges that I want to speak about today.
What are the problems, David? Is one of them the one about how you keep Amy Winehouse vertical long enough to get her to the end of gig?
Massive? I know he's talking to a group who constantly claim that, but the room must have tittered at that point, executives nudging themselves, whispering "he's fallen for it h,l and s" And if it's a fraud, it's not theft, and if it's theft, it's not fraud, surely?
I'm not sure what a room full of middle-aged men trying to hide an autoerotic orgasm would sound like, but I bet David Cameron does now. No suggestion that there might be some debate about if this desirable, or if the investments are already more than well-enough protected; he's just got the little cash box out and is now discussing if they want it in twenties or tens.
You might think, with another 100 or so high street shops closing in the last week, there could be other problems, problems more pressing than squeezing out a few more pennies from stuff recorded during the years of petrol rationing. Perhaps about developing new talent, or the biggest one of them all: finding a reason for BPI companies at all when music can be made cheaply and sold directly. It's almost as if Cameron lacks the courage to suggest that some things require deep, serious thought and instead wants to clutch on to crowd-pleasing cheap fixes.
Certainly up there in the top forty.
But I also want to talk about a bigger challenge that we all face together.
And how I expect the music industry, like everyone else, to recognise their responsibility in helping to fix it.
That must have brought up the executives a little short - suddenly, it turns out, their job isn't shipping three dozen boxes of the Best of Bucks Fizz to Woolworths - they've been given a key role at the heart of social policy. Who said that Cameron's reshuffle was a damp squib, eh? Next week, he's telling the Master Cutler's Association that it's their job to come up with a solution to the Middle East crisis, before hearing back from the National Farmers Union with their details of how, exactly, they intend to re-energise the space programme.
David turns to anti-piracy first of all:
Good god, no, that would be madness - you have to do a few at a time to make it worthwhile, and if you just walked out with it, you'd be caught. The idea is to slip 'em down your trousers, and then walk out with them.
This isn't preaching to the converted. This is reading Gospel quotes back to Jesus.
And each year, an estimated 20 billion – that’s right, 20 billion - music files are downloaded illegally.
This alone has cost the music industry as much as £1.1 billion in lost retail sales since 2004.
We shan't run through the 'a downloaded song is not necessarily a lost sale' arguments again right now, shall we?
He's at it again with the 'fraud' - even the BPI haven't bothered trying to pass filesharing off as fraud, although we'd like to see some public service announcements featuring Cliff Richard ending with a strapline "attempting to gain a theoretical pecuniary advantage by filesharing is a crime."
And it's not like anyone exactly tolerates it, is it?
Even so, if by 'tolerate' he means 'choose to not treat it as a top priority of police and courts who might have better things to do with their time', then he's wrong - what about the presence of photocopiers in libraries? The photocopying of pieces from papers and books and magazines takes place on an enormous scale, and yet the general response to that crime is a shrug and the occasional chivvying to buy some sort of licence. And what about in the software industry? Doesn't it happen on a much wider scale there?
Here's a clue David: You know when you said that loads and loads of people are illegally downloading music? Do you think the precise number of those loads and loads of people might suggest the lack of concern is because most everyone does it from time to time?
Or could it simply be that people have been listening to the industry wail for the last forty years about illegal copying without actually demonstrating any harm done by it - you yourself said it's a big, healthy, vibrant, bouncing industry - that it's hard for people to get upset now?
Had Cameron picked up the wrong speech? This sounds like something a music industry executive would say to a class of schoolkids, not something an independent minded politician would deliver to a room full of music inudstry officials. Was he expecting someone to leap to their feet and say "He's right! We've been blind! It's like theft!"
Of course, it's not like any other theft, because if I stole Cameron's bicycle, he wouldn't have a bicycle the next time he needed to cycle five feet for a photo op. If I stole a digital file of Webcameron, though, he would still have the original file to exploit and - since I would never pay for Webcameron - he'd not have had any financial loss, either.
If Cameron was a brave thinker, he'd have run with 'copyright is currently integral to your profit model, copyright is not secure, so it is time to discover a new business model that can react to that'. But then, if the music industry was as innovative as it was supposed to be, they'd have come up with a new way of working for themselves.
Hang about, he's going to suggest we get that guy who kicked the useless suicide bomber in the bollocks to police the internet.
I think government has three important responsibilities.
First, to establish a more robust intellectual property framework.
The Gowers Review into the UK Intellectual Property Framework rightly disappointed many in the creative industries by failing to do much more than suggest tinkering at the edges.
Changes at the margins will not be good enough.
If we are serious about protecting intellectual property, we need to build a framework that is both flexible and accessible.
Gowers did disappoint the creative industries, because he didn't deliver exactly what they wanted. Cameron isn't going to disappoint, though.
That means decriminalising the millions of people in this country for copying their CDs onto music players for personal use, and focusing all our attention on the genuine fraudsters.
Eh? Since when was playing my CDs on my Mac a crime? Surely David isn't trying to seem generous to us, the consumer, by "allowing" us a right we already have?
[draws small 'c' in a circle, writes '2007']. Yikes, that's the budget blown for a year, then.
No, seriously - when I upload a bunch of photos of lemurs riding on wooden carved elephants to Flickr, the act of registering the intellectual property is so simple it can be done while watching Andrew Neil on the television. Who are these companies who are so tiny they find it difficult to register their property? Are they ones with small hands which makes the keystroke for the © too tricky to manage?
The lack of clear translations of copyright notices into Flemish - a key part of one of the big challenges facing the music industry.
There have been some recent progress here that we should welcome.
As a result of the Gowers Review, Trading Standards Officers will now have the power to seize pirate and bootleg CDs that breach copyright law, even if they do not bear infringing trademarks.
The key is now to make sure we actively find the perpetrators and prosecute them.
So, at the moment, the problem is that we're not even using the laws we have in place, eh? Might it not be a good idea to think about seeing how that law works before producing more legislation? It's like hiring a taxi to drive to the seaside, but then ringing for another one before the first arrives, in case it doesn't make it.
….. and that is confronting the blasé attitude that many people have towards piracy and illegal downloading.
Too many people think it is a victimless crime.
But they conveniently ignore the links between CD piracy and serious and organised crime.
I strongly believe that if people really knew the kind of criminality they were funding, sales of pirate CDs in this country would plummet.
You notice the textbook music industry play of introducing the mention of "organised crime" with a mention of "illegal downloading" to try and suggest that the mafia, for reasons best known to itself, is seeding bittorrent with Celine Dion albums?
And since most people buy their dodgy CDs either from mates at work - who surely can't have any connections with crime - or shifty-looking men with suitcases at boot sales - who are so obviously reeking of criminality they couldn't be any more crime-ridden if they had "as seen on Crimewatch" badges on their lapels - would it really make any difference running yet more public education campaigns on this one?
Seriously, David, pop out into a pub one Friday night - you see the people buying batteries and razors off the blinking, unshaven bloke? Do you think the purchasers don't know what they're doing?
... and there, at the other end, the hooking back of illegal file-sharing to suggest it's somehow connected with organised crime.
This is something I wholly support.
So when it comes to combating copyright theft, there are three things that the Conservatives will do:
Establish a proper framework of intellectual property rights
He doesn't say what this 'framework' would be, nor why the current framework is apparently improper.
He doesn't say how this would be funded.
Yes. Nobody has heard that message.
We need you in the music industry itself to continue to innovate and make the sort of technological progress that makes pirating CDs more and more difficult.
We like the 'continue' here, as if there'd yet been any discovery of a system which doesn't break the CD.
Websites sharing illegal files? Or illegal websites sharing files?
They are the gatekeepers of the internet.
No they aren't, David. This is fundamentally wrong. Internet Service Providers are, if anything, the tarmac brigade of the internet. It is their role to provide the infrastructure which allows the electronic journeys to be made; it is not their role to decide what should and should not be allowed down those routes, and it is dangerous and wrong to suggest that the right to pick and choose what can and can't be piped along an internet route.
But last month alone, there were eight sites that hosted more than 25,000 illegal downloads.
How do you host a download? You can host a file, you can route a download - but hosting a download?
You should know.
In 2006, the BPI took down 60,000 illegal files from some 720 websites.
Since 2004, you have brought 139 actions against peer-to-peer filesharing.
But we cannot expect you to do all the work.
ISPs can block access and indeed close down offending file-sharing sites.
They could - assuming the traffic isn't cloaked and the files are hosted on a server they operate.
They should be doing the same when it comes to digital piracy.
But there's a key difference here - and not just how grossly offensive it is for Cameron to even try and suggest that there's any moral equivalence between a picture of a child being raped and someone listening to a Black Eyed Peas song without paying. Child porn and racism are fairly obvious when you see them - or, at least, it's pretty easy to make an educated guess that a picture that looks like a sexualised image of a child is a sexualised image of child. But even there, there's a bunch of grey areas which come up - the artist who took photos of her children in the bath, for example. Or Liz Hurley's son in a bikini advert. Incest fanfic.
How the hell, then, do you propose for ISPs to be able to tell if a track has been licensed, if it's copyright-free, if it's been released for download to journalists or even if the track is out of copyright?
The second challenge I want to talk today is how we can protect your investments in
In the digital age, whole back catalogues from any decade are available at the click
of a button
You'll have to excuse David here; his Dell PC does, indeed, have a button on the keyboard marked "Download all Decca backcatalogue tracks from the 1920s".
Not that Coservatives, faced with something difficult which called for a long-term commitment, would abandon it unfinished or anything.
The music industry has done so much in making all manner of music from any decade available to everyone.
And if we expect you to keep investing, keep innovating, keep creating…. … it is only right that you are given greater protection on your investments by the
extension of copyright term.
Although, of course, it's arguable that all this innovation - online shopping, if you can imagine such a thing - was driven not by their investment of royalty revenues but forced on them by the very illegal filesharers that Cameron is suggesting need to be chased out of town.
And could David show his working on this one, please - if the music industry has managed to be all bright and innovative under the current copyright regime - and, if, under a Cameron government their alleged losses from piracy and illegal downloads would be stopped - why do the companies suddenly need the extra revenue from extending copyright as well?
Charging people twenty pence to wear knickers could raise £4.3billion in the next year, but that doesn't mean it is a good idea.
Well, yes it would. But it's possible to argue that composers' work is constantly being re-recorded, and re-used, while the musician did his work and buggered off once. You could consider that the act of composition is more demanding than the act of interpretation and as such more deserving of a longer period of exploitation.
But more importantly, you could say that if they've had to cede their copyright to a record label half a decade ago, they probably couldn't a violet breath mint about the length of copyright they've lost; if they haven't, it's not going to help the record companies extending the length of the term.
In the UK alone, over 7000 musicians will lose rights to their recordings over the
next ten years.
Most people think these are all multi-millionaires living in some penthouse flat.
The reality is that many of these are low-earning session musicians who will be losing a vital pension.
It is a heartbreaking situation, although they have had fifty years to prepare themselves for the copyright expiration - and, if, as David said, they're not earning millions from it now, it's not going to be a huge loss.
ut now lets discover how David thinks we, as consumers, benefit from this extended term:
If we increase the copyright term, so the incentive is there for you working in the industry to digitise both older and niche repertoire which more people can enjoy at no extra cost.
So, by having something which we could have digitised amongst ourselves and shared for free under the current copyright system, we can pay the record companies to do it and then give them a profit on top, we're winning somehow?
If, of course, the record companies bother to even digitise their fifty year old material.
A Conservative Government will argue for this in Europe for this change to happen in order to protect investment in the future of the industry, reward our creative artists and generate more choice for consumers.
No, we're not sure how this extra choice is being generated - at the moment, any fifty year old recording can be shared online; under Cameron, only those recordings the record companies choose to make available will be online. Perhaps Cameron is merely excited at the extension of titles that will be circulating on the illegal filesharing websites.
Now, here comes the Quo for these Quids: Save the kids. We'll elide over Cameron's detailing of how shit Britain is at raising kids - we're sure you've heard it all before, mostly in the Mail - and rejoin him just as he starts to explain to a BPI whose eyes are glazing over what it's got to do with them:
It’s about our culture too.
Popular culture is a massive influence on our children.
A culture, in which of course, music plays an important part.
That’s why I need your help if we’re going to fix our broken society.
"Orville... who is your very best friend? I'm gonna help you mend... your broken society..."
The BRIT School is a great example of what can be achieved.
There are other examples across the industry too.
The Nordoff-Robbins Trust does great work in providing music therapy for children with disabilities.
Last year when I met with Sony BMG an idea called ‘Music for Good’ was born, and it’s already providing opportunities for kids to forge a career in the music industry.
The simple truth is that music and musicians can influence young people much more than politicians can.
Our message does not resonate half as much as the messages they hear from their.[sic]
Music is what kids listen to, understand and draw inspiration from.
So let’s ask ourselves, honestly, what inspiration are they getting from some music
Music culture today extends beyond what people listen to on the radio to what they see online, on their televisions and in magazines.
We’ve got a real cultural problem in our country; and it’s affecting the way young people grow up.
It’s an anti-learning culture where it’s cool to bunk off, it’s cool to be bad, it’s cool not to try.
Do young people still say cool? Or is Cameron about to start bleating that "it's cool to tell Mr Cunnigham to sit on it..."?
We challenge David to come up with a single pro-bunking off song that's popular with children in any meaningful sense.
It's interesting that the music industry, en masse, just sat there rather than any of them standing up and contesting this lazy, half-arsed cartoony pen-picture of what children are listening to, much less the simplistic psychological tosh Cameron was peddaling. A teenager stabbing someone in the eyes today would have grown up with Teletubbies on the tv - could it be that there might be some more pressing reason for a generation growing up believing fighting is the answer? Something to do with having developed while their nation's leaders went off to drop bombs on anyone who happened to be unfortunate enough to live in a country with whose leaders those leaders disagreed?
Now I know this is difficult territory for a politician.
People could argue that music is just a portrayal of life today, not a cause of the way we live.
And they argue that other, perhaps older, genres of music are also provocative, including ones that I personally have said I am a fan of.
After all, it’s not as if Morrissey, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash have ever shied away from violence in their lyrics.
Well, at least he learned from the reaction to his last, clumsy foray into lyrical incitement to acknowledge the violence in his (supposedly) beloved Morrissey.
Of course, there is some truth in these arguments.
I wonder if there's a "but" which isn't "but I can't wave a twenty year copyright extension at those industries to buy their agreement to censor".
Ah, it turns out that, having admitted that music is just one of a number of strands of culture, he's going to ignore the vital question of what's the bloody point of making rappers sing about kittens if kids are still playing Grand Thefty Hooker Killing.
Does it? Really? So if you made kids listen to nothing but hymns, and not change anything else in their lives, they'd become choirboys?
There are some songs which do some of those things - but equally there are 'it's smart to be smart' songs. Hell, even Busted suggested that there's reason to go to school. Although, erm, it was to have underage sex with your teachers.
David Cameron's superpowers allow him to determine which parts of a deeply complex mix of social and cultural factors influence children's behaviour, apparently. "That guy there, pissing in the alley - that's music done that one; the bloke who's stealing the shoes, he's stealing the left one as a result of received ideas about victimless crimes he's gotten off movies and the right one because of his family breakdown..."
If we are all responsible…. and we are….
Then we all need to take our responsibilities seriously.
Put simply, we have to acknowledge that all of us – as politicians, as teachers, as parents, as television producers, video game manufacturers and yes, as record
industry executives – need to understand our specific responsibility in not promoting a culture of low academic aspiration or violence but instead to inspire young kids with a positive vision of how to lead their life.
That’s why I am not calling for censorship, legislation or the banning of content.
I am calling on you to show leadership, exercise your power responsibly and to use your judgement.
Or, in other words, I am calling for self-censorship.
We're not quite sure how Cameron squares telling people not to do something - especially when it's been explicitly linked with the prospect of extra revenue in the form of extended copyright - with not offering censorship. Either you're saying 'don't do this' or you're not; calling for an industry to refuse to release some sorts of product is censorious.
Aware as he must be of this, Cameron quickly moves on to trying to generate some positive images:
But I also know, unless we all fulfil our responsibilities, however small, we cannot hope to confront the challenge of our broken society.
Already, schemes like rhyme4respect, which encourages positive lyrics in music, is leading the way, showing that the music industry recognises its responsibility and takes this issue seriously…
I really do welcome that…
… but I think we all know we need more.
So when it comes to helping fix our broken society, it is not enough for the music industry to sponsor community projects.
You can make a difference by providing positive role models for young kids to look up to, draw inspiration from and aspire to be.
This is thin stuff - 'why can't you write some happy songs about people who are happy and join banks and things'?
I'd say the music industry is much better off putting cash into small projects which let young people have a go at making music rather than trying to generate positive role models. It doesn't work. Sure, if there are artists who are good and show that being polite and studying and just knowing stuff is sexy, yes, promote them. But trying to create MC Hammer like characters to deliver a 'stay in school/say no to drugs' message? Our children, David, are not cultural dopes.
Would it make any sense to say to media companies that you can simply meet your obligations for social responsibility – to be a responsible corporate citizen – through community projects which had nothing to do with your actual product?
I know such projects are vital and companies like those here today do so much to channel your charitable energy towards giving opportunities to the young.
But imagine if we took this approach with McDonalds or a mining company.
Is it really enough to say that you can put anything you like in your burgers, or do
anything you want to the environment when digging for precious metals…. “That’s ok, as long as you are doing some other charitable things at the same time” ?
Depends... are these mining companies donating to Central Office?
Social responsibility is not just about community projects where you use your profits
to do good, it’s about how you make those profits in the first place too.
But fast food companies and mining agencies generally do what they can up to lines drawn either by legislation or industry-wide codes of conduct. But you've claimed you don't intend to formally censor. So why do you think the music industry would be any different?
Mining companies will dig up land until the law tells them not to. You wouldn't watch them driving up to the gates of Snowdonia and simply say 'hey, lads, be a bit corporately responsible there', would you?
That’s why I want to work with you to combat piracy and illegal downloading.
That’s why I want to extend the copyright term to 70 years.
But in return, I want to see more from you….
… using the influence you have over young children to help fix our broken society.
Britain’s music scene has had an incredibly proud past.
Together, we can ensure it has an even brighter future.
In conclusion, then: I'm not going to censor you, but here's the prospect of some money. Do as I say.