Thursday, March 12, 2009

Illegal downloading isnt a crime, say FAC

Interesting noises coming from the meeting of the Featured Artists Coalition.

First, that it's a body which is determined to not be seen as a Trades Union. It's keen to stress it doesn't want to usurp the Musician's Union:

Writing on Comment is Free, Billy Bragg [...] stresses that the FAC is not a "pop stars" union, as the Musicians Union already fulfils that role, but "a campaigning organisation that seeks to achieve fair remuneration in exchange for widespread access".

It's not quite clear what the organisation is, if not a union. You might have thought that a group of workers drawn from a particular industry collectively bargaining for better pay and conditions would be exactly what a union is; perhaps as many of its members are self-employed, they'd rather be seen as a Guild?

Whatever it is, it's busily carving out a position for itself somewhere to the left of the groups which currently claim to speak for music - most notably by voting against the legal pursuit of alleged file-sharers:
Bragg told The Independent that most of the artists had voted against supporting any move towards criminally prosecuting ordinary members of the public for illegally downloaded music.

Bragg was speaking as a key member of the coalition, which was set up to give a collective voice to artists who want to fight for their rights in the digital world. It is pushing for a fairer deal for musicians at a time when they can use the internet to forge direct links with their fans. "What I said at the meeting was that the record industry in Britain is still going down the road of criminalising our audience for downloading illegal MP3s," he said.

"If we follow the music industry down that road, we will be doing nothing more than being part of a protectionist effort. It's like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube.

"Artists should own their own rights and they should decide when their music should be used for free, or when they should have payment."

There's much to worry about for the record labels there - most obviously the first empirical evidence that the artists in whose name these prosecutions are being carried out don't support the policy.

More subtly, there's that distinction Bragg has made between the people who make the music and the "music industry".

It's still far from clear what the FAC actually sees as the future, but it's becoming apparent that, unlike the RIAA and the PRS, they're not working from the assumption that the solution is to try and force the old business plans onto the new distribution channels.

The logical direction would seem to be for the FAC to create their own royalty collection agency, able to work above national boundaries and with digital distributors, and without the years of bureaucracy and overheads carried by the PRS.

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