Friday, January 21, 2011

Music industry does something useful

One of the problems for anyone looking to build a service which uses music is the horrible confusion over who owns what rights for which market. It sometimes means certain tracks can't be used at all; other times, the difficulties in do cross-border deals mean great ideas can never roll out across the world.

So it's a useful start that the music industry is finally doing something to help. Reuters reports:

Now, consultancy Deloitte is working to develop a global repertoire database (GRD) for the publishing industry following input from Universal Music Publishing and EMI Publishing, some of the major royalty collection societies and retailers such as Amazon and iTunes.
Apparently, all it's going to do is tell you who owns what copyrights - which is a start, certainly, and from such a bumbling, badly-run industry any step in the right direction should be applauded.

But, of course, rather than thinking in terms of this being something useful, the RIAA-companies are trying to see how they can use it as a club against those frightful pirates:
"As an industry there have been many false dawns over the years but at last we seem to have woken up to the fact that we have to change," Neil Gaffney, Executive Vice President at EMI Music Publishing UK told Reuters.

"This GRD is a game changer because for the first time we will have an assured, common, trusted view of what we represent, own and manage.

"One of the complexities for a new services is people say they didn't know who to pay. It gets rid of one of the fundamental issues and means we can turn our attention to those people who use music illegally."
Oh, for God's sake, man: it's nothing to do with "illegal" use of music (which would be what? Forcing Pearl Jam on an underage child?). You're building something that will help people use your products. You should be doing that because that is how industries are meant to work.

If you're only doing this because you're afraid someone, somewhere, might be streaming an old Kula Shaker album to Bhutan without asking permission, I suppose you owe the pirates a thanks for having pointed out to you something you're missing.

It's not going to make any difference to unlicensed services, though: nobody who flings Katy Perry onto one of the many post-Limewire services thinks "if only I knew the address of her collection agency, I could have got a licence for this", do they?

Naturally, having taken this long to get to this point - it's like the railway industry having decided around 1936 they should start thinking about putting stations on their network - they've managed to come up with something that's less than a half-measure.

What would be valuable would be an agreement that would allow someone, wherever they are in the world, to generate a licence simply and easily, with the appropriate collection agency, that charges a sensible rate, at the click of a button. That's the sort of thing that the music industry could have done using 2002 technology, and would have helped with their bottom line. Still, there's always next decade, eh?*

* - assuming the record companies can hold on.