Bill Thompson - who, amongst other things, contributes to the BBC World Service - wrote a piece about his disappointment with his ISP, Virgin, and their decision to dance to the BPI's tune by sending "warnings" to customers who they thought might be downloading material without due regard to copyright law.
Geoff Taylor of the BPI wasn't, of course, going to take that quietly, and so he dashed off a response:
Given the RIAA and its client organisations worldwide often use the misleading analogy of shoplifting, it seems strange that all of a sudden they've decided to be pedantic about drawing parallels; the trouble is that Thompson's analogy was watertight.
Thompson explained that he'd access a TV programme that he'd missed off the torrents but would still buy the box sets (he actually never mentioned taping programmes, what with being a technology expert he suggested the parallel was with burning them to a DVD off a direct broadcast, but let's allow the BPI to call this taping.) That would seem to be a perfect parallel with timeshifting, wouldn't it?
And how snide is it putting experts into quotation marks?
"Geoff" doesn't actually bother to explain why he believes Thompson's analogy was wrong - presumably he can't distinguish between 'every single possible use of torrents' and 'one perfectly valid use of torrents'.
"Geoff" moves on, though:
Yes, you wouldn't expect Apple to be able to sell so many downloads as to become the second-largest music retailer in the US while unauthorised downloading continued unchecked. Or for numerous companies to believe the legal market is worth a punt while abuse of torrents continues. Amazon's not going to open up a download store against a background of filesharing, is it?
Oh... hang on.
Music companies are radically re-inventing their business models in response to changes in how music fans want to access music online.
Well, that's not entirely true, is it? Music companies have been forced to reinvent their business models faced with a changed world - but not in a way they can take any pride in, as they did everything to avoid getting to that point. And they're still not trying to respond to how fans want to access music - unlimited, everywhere, for a fair price - as they're still hobbling files, striking exclusive deals, locking formats, trying to find ways to gouge customers. Has any fan ever said "hey, you know what I really want? A music collection that I have to pay for every month or it'll just disappear?" I suspect not.
Independent research has shown time after time that people who download illegally generally spend less on music than people that don't, which undermines investment in new music.
"Geoff" doesn't actually do anything like quote any of this "independent" research. But we can quote research that says the opposite: For example, The Leading Question survey in 2005 reported filesharers spent more on legal downloads than non-filesharers. (Interestingly, Matt Phillips of the BPI is quoted in the Guardian report there, once again claiming 'study after study' shows that without, erm, quoting any research by name. If you say something often enough...).
In fact, the BPI even quotes this research on its own website, but merely glosses the awkward fact as showing "a willingness to use legal services".
The BPI site, by the way, lists a lot of studies - but most suggest that downloading removes sales that would otherwise have been made rather than the somewhat different claim that downloading reduces the amount spent on music. Oh, and the survey which does explicitly say "the purchasing habits of downloaders against non-downloaders revealed that over time downloaders bought less music"? That was a BPI-funded survery, so hardly independent.
Geoff then gets really patronising. Like if-we-were-Bill-Thompson-we'd-be-fumning patronising:
Of course Bill Thompson bloody knows that, you twit. Is this really the way you think adults debate things?
So far this year, 13.4% of our sales revenues have come through digital platforms and in total, more than 200 million downloads have been sold in the UK.
But... erm, wasn't it naive to think that licensed music services could prosper with all this illegal downloading going on?
Geoff then goes on to trill about how there's never been a case of mistaken identity or successful contesting of a filesharing lawsuit in Europe - as far as anyone knows, before patting Virgin on the back for joining in with them.
Oh, no? Then why were you threatening to take ISPs to court for some sort of injunction if they didn't sign up to the three strikes policy? "Not wanting to see people lose their broadband" sits uneasily with "trying to force ISPs to threaten to disconnect people's broadband", doesn't it?
Geoff concludes with a rallying cry:
It's all about the artists, see. And, erm, the multinational companies.