Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Music Trade Should Go with Digital Flow

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Music Trade Should Go with Digital Flow

Article excerpt

The story famously associated with King Canute is most commonly interpreted as an example of hubris. But Canute was, in reality, smarter than this, attempting to demonstrate to his fawning courtiers that even he, as King, could not stop the incoming tide.

It seems, though, that the music industry has no such self-awareness. As a bunch of people who have clearly never heard of King Canute, its struggle to hold back the rising tide of illegal downloading continues.

Threatening to take single mums to court for their kids' downloads and suing file-sharing site Napster, the industry has fought tooth and nail to halt the growth of piracy and the file-sharing sites that feed it.

Despite this, consumers have been voting with their mouse - more than 10m people shared files on Pirate Bay, until it was closed by Swedish police earlier this month, and 26m on Napster before it was shut down in 2001. More than a third of web traffic is said to be in the form of torrents - typically video files being shared between users - and the appetite for illegal downloads seems insatiable.

Now the industry has dragged the Department for Culture, Media and Sport into building dykes for them to stick their finger into. A draft copy of the forthcoming Green Paper on the creative industries, quoted in The Times, set out the government's intention to force internet service providers (ISPs) to 'take action on illegal file-sharing'.

In other words, the idea is that ISPs will monitor not just what types of files are being shared by users, but the actual content, and, presumably, copyright status, of those files. Many ISPs already discriminate between file types, usually to ensure quality of service for users - data for a phone call has to be prioritised to avoid the sound breaking up, while an email arriving half a second later rarely makes any difference to anyone.

But this is quite different, because it will require ISPs to first spy on users and then punish them for infringing the law, withdrawing the service from them and providing evidence to record companies.

The BPI has been lobbying for ages for this. Chief executive Geoff Taylor is quoted on its website calling for ISPs to tie with the music industry to help grow the creative economy, and accusing them of having 'built a business on other people's music'. …

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