Thursday, June 05, 2008

We're stealing the bread out of Bono's mouth

Oh, if only downloading a few shady mp3s were enough to ensure Bono and his chums were going to run out of cash. Sadly, it's not true, but to listen to U2 manager Paul McGuinness banging on, you'd assume that was the case:

Speaking at the Music Matters confab in Hong Kong, McGuinness likened ISPs to "shoplifters" and accused them of "turning their heads" away from the music industry's troubles and "rigging the market."

"The recorded music industry is in a crisis, and there is crucial help available but not being provided by companies who should be providing that help -- not just because it is morally right, but because it is in their commercial interest," McGuinness said.

Well, that's one in the eye for those of us who think that the music industry never moves on. They've stopped calling filesharers shoplifters, and started calling the ISPs shoplifters instead.

Not that it even makes sense - surely, since the ISPs don't end up with anything, they're more like the people who distract your attention so that a pickpocket can come round and steal your purse. If you accept they have a role at all.

We're not entirely sure why it's in ISP's "commercial interests" to bear the costs of enforcing other people's copyright, or, indeed, why they have a moral right to do so. It does seem that record labels only decided this ethical angle a couple of years ago at most, but if it was such a compellingly obvious point, wouldn't they have mentioned it back a decade ago?
McGuinness said ISPs were unwilling to act against piracy and had ignored music-industry proposals -- even though they were not being asked to police the Internet.

The stressing that they're not asking ISPs to "police" the internet is true, and a key part of the industry trying to pretend they're only making a reasonable request. Trouble is, they're expecting the ISPs to be the rest of the criminal justice system, from magistrate through to probation officer, and carry all the costs and risks of the operation.


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