Saturday, September 28, 2002

Maybe record executives should read some papers

You have to worry about the experts in charge of the UK music industry - the plumetting share of UK music in global sales suggests they don't know much about music; their current behaviour makes it clear nobody at the BPI has a clue about the worlds of industry, either. Their initial demands that EasyInternet Cafes (part of the Stelios-Easyjet empire) pay a million pounds to make good the "losses" incurred by customers who may - may have burnt downloaded music onto a CD while on their premises was laughable, outrageous, and rightly ridiculed.

But now they've tried to take Easy to court in a bid to force them to keep details of further negotations secret. Do these people ever read the finance pages? Or even the adverts? Have they not seen that it's part of Easy's business ethos to appeal over the heads of lawyers straight to the people - so, disputes with BA tend to get fought as much in quarter page adverts and on the side of planes as in back rooms? And that trying to bully the orange-bedecked empire is always going to wind up blowing up in your face in a series of elaborately-orchestrated publicity stunts?

If the BPI had been less greedy, they might have avoided the whole parading of their demands through the press at all. As it is... well, if I was holding shares in a record label, I'd be asking questions of my boards as to who is exactly coming up with these increasingly ridiculous strategies.

Meanwhile, in today's Guardian letters page, an executive from Chrysalis condemns the paper for repeating the "myth" that there is a fair use exemption in the copyright act allowing people to copy their own records for their own use. She's half right - the Act says fair use is for private research, review or reporting.

But that misses the point that there's no exemption for the making of a back-up copy simply because that's actually covered by the licence under which you buy the record or CD in the first place - you're buying the recording, the sound, not the plastic disc, to use as you see fit for your own personal realm. Fair use exemptions are designed to cover the circulation of reproductions, not the making of a reproduction. Since we assume that Catherine Bell knows this, we presume she's trying to pull a fast one.

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