Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Music industry's pyrrhic victory might not even be that

The deal cut for the music industry in the UK - whereby ISPs will reluctantly send out tut-tuts to people record companies believe are sucking down great piles of unpaid music from the internet, and in return ISPs get to build their own legitimate stores - hasn't gone down too well in some places. David Pakman of eMusic has suggested that the music industry has, effectively, created a system that could ruin itself:

"Our concern is that in order to obtain the co-operation of the ISPs, there seems to be a quid pro quo," Mr Pakman told the FT. "This is qualitatively different from licensing another half a dozen digital music businesses." The likes of Apple, eMusic, Amazon and Rhapsody were attracting the same customers to legitimate music sites - "you're penalising the good guys, not the bad guys", he said.

One of Pakman's main concerns is that the ISPs are now not only distributors, but also potentially retailers, of online music, and that they could manipulate their position to divert customers to their stores. The ISPs are shocked at the very suggestion:
"We have no plans to inhibit in any way the traffic of other legitimate music or content services, irrespective of whether we eventually offer our own," said BT.

BSkyB said it was talking to several music companies, but had yet to launch its planned service: "It seems premature in the extreme to be warning of the consequences of something that doesn't even exist."

Exactly. You shouldn't object if your drunken neighbour applies for a gun licence - after all, his weapon, at this stage, doesn't even exist. Wait until he's shooting your car tyres out at three am in a few months.

And BT's reassurance isn't exactly reassuring: not a firm, clear, we would never do that, just a "we have no plans to" at the moment. And it's not just a case of making it harder to download a song from iTunes by throttling connections to the servers, as BT seem to be suggesting - many people, through inertia, are using browsers whose home page is that supplied by their ISP. A big, splashy, "buy Coldplay for sixpence" on launch pages could turn a young music lover's head and seize their pennies without the need to mess about with traffic to Apple or eMusic. It's like Tesco's new online cheat, where they don't actually restrict brands access to their website's customers, if you try and buy a branded product, it automatically suggests a replacement from own brand products instead. You can understand why eMusic might be concerned at the gatekeepers flogging their own produce by the gate.


1 comment:

James said...

"Our concern is that in order to obtain the co-operation of the ISPs, there seems to be a quid pro quo," Mr Pakman told the FT

...before realising that he was being pursued by four ghosts and rushing off to eat a row of small white pills and a banana.

Sorry, I'm probably not adding much to the debate here, am I?

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