The government is hosting an event called, I'm afraid, C&binet today. (Creativity & Business International Network is the reversed-out long form of the not-quite-an-acronym there.)
One of the speakers was Jean Bernard-Levy, head of Vivendi, taking the opportunity to push three strikes onto the agenda. After all, that's how it's done back home in France:
Levy [...] said that while it was too soon to gauge the results of the introduction of the "three-strikes" policy in France, it was a necessary step to protect content owners.
Righto. Let's just consider that.
There's not been any time to judge if it works, but it's necessary. Whether it works or not.
"Britain should be more in favour of developing the media industries and even if France is ahead in legislation it should be obvious [that the UK should] be doing something like three strikes," he added.
Why "obvious"? And where does the idea that throwing people off the internet will lead to a developed media industry actually come from?
Levy said Vivendi, despite owning one of France's largest internet service providers (ISPs), telecoms operator SFR, was convinced the tough legislative strategy would not harm internet use. He added that he expected no real reduction in legal web traffic.
Really? There's all these pirates who need to be chased off the net, and yet chasing them off won't actually make a difference to the levels of web traffic? Does Levy believe that people who make unlicensed copies only use their computers for evil? Or is it just that there are such a very small number of people who would be affected by the law as to make no significant difference to anything?
Vivendi owns an ISP as well as a record label:
"There is no way at Vivendi that there is an internal debate – the priority is to reward and monetise content. The priority is not to grow traffic on ISPs," Levy said.
Well, that's good news for Vivendi. If you were a company whose main business was in telecommunications rather than content, you might wonder why a person with a foot in two camps is being allowed to make the running with deciding that content is more important than connectivity. It's like a person who runs a grocery deciding that cheese is going to be produced at the expense of beef, and expecting the butchers to agree with him because he has a meat counter himself.
And didn't you just say Levy that this wasn't going to affect traffic on the web? Why, all of a sudden, does three strikes have a priority?
Come to that, while you can see why Vivendi might decide this should be a priority, is it societally better for people who own the means of communication to decide they should be used primarily for enriching record companies instead of driving upwards the number of people using the internet? Wouldn't it be better for all industries if ISPs were trying to make getting online as easy and convenient as possible for the largest numbers, instead of focusing their efforts on trying to squeeze a few extra quid out of an old Peter Gabriel album?
Levy, naturally, doesn't worry about the human rights questions of disconnecting people from a source of democratic and civil engagement:
"When you send warning letters to people then they can't say they did not know [they were breaking the law]. It is a short-term view to say 'I don't want to hurt the public'."
Good lord, imagine taking such a short-term view as not wanting to hurt actual people, instead of the long-term view of Vivendi's share price. Do you think Vivendi would ever have been involved in bribing politicians in Milan if they'd ever stopped to worry about such short-term views? Or having a go at price-fixing.
He added that for the music industry, models such as Spotify's "freemium" strategy, where users can choose between free streamed songs with advertising or paying a subscription to avoid ads, had "yet to be proven profitable" despite the mass hype.
Ah, so we've not seen any proof that three strikes work, but we must just accept that it does; however, we've not seen any proof that freemium delivers profits, so we should assume that it doesn't. That seems fair.
Incidentally, how can the music industry not be making a profit from Spotify? It's not like every record is having to be re-recorded or re-promoted? Levy seems to be arguing that if you eat yesterday's leftover pizza for lunch, you're not saving any money.