Tuesday, 17 February 2009

So what is going on with the UK music business?

Yesterday I did my annual lecture for the MAC281 Cyberculture module in which I outline the problems facing the music industry, drawing particular attention to the rhetoric from those groups which seek to advance a very specific version of events vis-à-vis the impact of the Internet. Lecture slides are embedded below (some formatting issues are apparent but you'll get the picture):

In particular we looked at some of the rhetoric and roles played by the following organisations:
It's well worth paying a visit to these sites as they give you a good indication as to the lobbying power of the music industry. All of these groups represent the music industry in its various guises and they are all intent on using the rhetoric of supporting artists through combating file-sharing.

I was looking through a few BPI press releases this past week as I attempted to update some of the facts and figures regarding the sales of music in the UK context and I was a little confused by the data I found, which seemed to suggest that the UK album market is fairly buoyant with a relatively steady set of sales figures over the last decade. Had I cared to listen to the rhetoric of the anti-filesharing lobby without being too critical I'd have thought this data was surely inaccurate given the frequency with which messages abound - equating piracy with poor sales and less future investment. I'm not trying to suggest piracy doesn't impact on sales, but I am a little sceptical about the amount of leverage the music industry seems to have in promoting a somewhat misleading account of the impacts of file-sharing.

After all, there are a number of events occurring currently that seem to suggest that these lobbying groups are gaining momentum in their ability to get national and supranational governments on side. In New Zealand there are a number of groups contesting the introduction into law of Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act, which has been nicknamed the 'Guilt Upon Association' law.

New Zealand's new Copyright Law presumes 'Guilt Upon Accusation' and will Cut Off Internet Connections without a trial. Join the black out protest against it!

When this is introduced in 10 days it will enable the termination of internet connections and website access without sufficient evidence of wrong doing, without a fair trial, and without punishment for any false accusations of copyright infringement. The consequences of such a thing are monumental, especially when one study has already pointed to some of the flaws in evidence gathering.

Meanwhile, the Legal Affairs Committee in the European Parliament has given its approval to extend the copyright term for music recordings from 50 years to 95 years despite substantial opposition. Torrentfreak have been following this one. The ruling was meant to protect the rights of sessions musicians who get a rather short deal out of existing copyright arrangements, although they still have to prove they are entitled to any money to a collection society acting on their behalf. Not many people live beyond 95 years of age and seldom are born composing music. These extensions have a history of benefiting the rights holders over anybody else. The Open Rights Group are carrying an attack on the 'fairy tale' of the term extension.

Becky Hogge: Speech at Sound Copyright conference in the EU Parliament 27.01.09 from Open Rights Group on Vimeo.

The video above seems to have been ignored by the Legal Affairs Committee who have given the big 4 (Sony BMG, Warners, Universal, EMI) yet more power and control over copyright. The myth of the poor musician was a successful smokescreen yet again...

In Sweden, The Pirate Bay founders are being taken to court by media firms including Warner Bros and Sony on charges of copyright theft. Various industry representatives from the games, music and movie sectors are seeking approximately €10.5 million in damages and losses due to the sites hosting of files which point users to others with copyright material. The trial started yesterday, and already 50% of the charges have been dropped due to insufficient evidence.

It seems like these are turbulent times in the worlds of filesharing and intellectual copyright. I wonder whether or not these ventures are worth the money spent on them? More investment in new and exciting music services like Spotify might point to a better future. It's good to see the big 4 are actually supporting this venture as it rolls out across Europe. The basic service is free to UK users now.

1 comment:

Taylor Bell said...

Wonderful post! I had a baby this summer and, like you, started collecting books for my future child years ago. I can't help but "think ahead" when finding books for Lev.
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