Friday, March 26, 2004

DO AS DADDY TELLS YOU: Pretty much in the same way that Blair had to struggle to find reasons to support Bush in his war on Iraq, so that his ally didn't have to go it alone and look stupid, it seems the BPI has been bounced into threatening to copy the RIAA's storngarm tactics against music fans in the UK to make Cary and the gang seem less gung-ho heavy-handed.

The BPI have put UK filesharers on a warning:

The British record industry has put illegal filesharers of music on notice that if they continue with their activities they risk court action.
UK record companies? trade association the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) this morning unveiled research indicating that 8.0m people in the UK claim to be downloading music ? 92% of them (7.4m people) using illegal sites.

This has lead to some reporters claiming that "only 8% use legal sites", which isn't the case at all, of course - it's possible, and amost probable, that of the 92% who use illegal sites would also be using legal sites as well, and many of them may only be using the illegal sites because the music industry has chosen not to make the music they want available in the format they want at a fair price. It's perhaps fair at this point to do a spot of number crunching with the raw survey data that the BPI have produced. They surveyed 3,367 people in the UK, 17.8 per cent of whom said they had downloaded music -so, the assumptions they're making on the habits of downloaders are based on just 600 responses. That's 600 people answering for eight million people - or every 'yes' counting for 13,333 people, which seems a little shaky to say the least. This survey also dates from a vague "late last year" time, which would put it before the launch of MyCokeMusic and the beefing up of Wippit, the first proper attempts to provide a viable alternative - kind of like asking Spanish voters intentions three weeks before the Madrid train crash changed the situation.

Downloaders spending less on music
For the first time research has quantified the effect of illegal file-sharing on the record industry. A comparison of the buying behaviour indicates that downloaders spending on albums was down 32%, and spending on singles was down 59% over the previous year.
?There is no clearer evidence of the damage that illegal downloading is doing to British music and the British music industry,? says BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson.

But this isn't actually providing proof of that - perhaps the reason their spending on music was down was because they found sites like CD Wow which allowed them to buy the same number of CDs but pay less money for them? Or because they realised if they picked up their records in Asda they could pay half the price they used to? Or because the industry reluctantly realised it had to stop charging what the fuck they liked for music.

?Illegal filesharing is causing real financial damage to artists, to songwriters, to record companies, publishers, retailers and everyone involved in the business.?

By the BPI's own figures, the size of the music market has shrunk by just 0.8% in the period they're looking at. This at a time of a lot of price cutting. EMI has just announced ballsy profits. It's hard to see the evidence of this damage - and if it was obvious, then surely they wouldn't need to be issuing surveys with number play trying to prove it?

File-sharing is illegal
The BPI points out that illegal file-sharing is outlawed under the The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Specifically it runs counter to:
Section 16, which reserves to the owner exclusive rights to copy and to communicate their works to the public;
Section 20, which says communication to the public includes ?the making available to the public of the work by electronic transmission in such a way that members of the public may access it from a place and at a time individually chosen by them?.
Instant messages warn of action
The BPI has unveiled a new ?instant messaging? campaign over the internet warning uploaders that they face court action if they do not disable file-sharing software on their computers.

Illegal, yes, generally. We know. But since having file-sharing software is not illegal, what right do the BPI have to tell me or anyone to disable it. Can we tell the BPI to switch off their Microsoft Word programs, on the grounds that it's possible to use Word to produce illegal copies of newspaper articles? And how will the BPI know people have file sharing software in the first place? Are they just going to guess (in which case, that would be spam, which is also outlawed) or are they going to poke about on people's hard-drives? The BPI says they're going to be using the built in IM functions of the file sharing software, which we seem to remember is actually a breach of the terms of use of the software in the first place.

No excuses
The BPI points out that the UK is at the forefront of the development of new legal download services.

No it isn't. Napster, Walmart, BestBuy and iTunes are - the UK is tottering along slowly behind

?There is no excuse whatsoever for people taking music without permission,? says Jamieson. ?There are literally hundreds of thousands of tracks available on legal internet music services in the UK, and the number of tracks available and the number of services providing them grows weekly.?

Erm... "hundreds of thousands" tracks available isn't quite the same thing as every song you might want being available. How many tunes would you find in an average Virgin Megastore? Even a pokey one probably has about half a million there. The BPI try to make out that they're all about the music lovers, but you have to be slightly insane to suggest that the logical reaction to not being able to find a legal download of, say, Hurrah's How Many Rivers is to plump for a legal download of Meat Loaf doing 'Bat of Hell' instead of seeking out a bootleg version. And it's that complete faliure to grasp what drives the main downloading frenzy - a desire to hear a specific tune, now, in a simple format (and at a fair price), now, now, now. The BPI's bid to portray illegal downloaders as thieves shoving CDs under their jumper at random in a branch of Woolies is why they'll never be able to stop them; a closer model - if you must have a criminal model - is of jewel thieves breaking into private collections to steal pieces to order. The BPI is trying to stop that with the equivalent of putting reinforced glass in Elizabeth Duke's windows.

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