Are they finally getting it right?

February 2010


By Cassandra Williams, post-graduate student at the College of Law

The Government, Record Companies and the Music Industry as a whole have often been accused of not moving with the times, being unable to monetise the digital age and of attacking fans and music lovers for infringement rather than the system, if events of the last month are anything to go by it looks as though they may be, finally, getting on the right track.

The Government has backtracked on Clause 17 of its Digital Economy Bill, a move some have branded a distraction, in order to sidetrack opponents from the controversial issue of “three strikes”,  This Clause would give the Secretary Of State responsible for intellectual property the power to introduce new copyright rules without consulting parliament, an entirely undemocratic right. The uproar over this particular clause has diverted many away from the introduction of a three-strikes anti-piracy programme that could result in persistent illegal file-sharers having their net connections suspended, a move that was struck by France’s highest constitutional authority who ruled that Internet access is a fundamental human right and thereby killed the three-strikes provision (Torrent freak).

In a move mirroring the Spanish legislators the British Phonographic Institution (BPI) has reportedly made a proposal for a new clause to be added to the new legislation.  A provision that would allow content owners to secure injunctions, forcing websites hosting or possibly even linking to infringing content to remove said content or link with immediate effect.  This move would target the hosts rather than the end users; which may end the bad press that was received when the seemingly ‘big bad corporations’ where prosecuting individual such as 12 year old for downloading nursery rhymes (Brianna LaHara).  Are the authorities finally moving towards a more publicly acceptable way of persecuting infringers?

Even the record companies are seemingly listening to the public needs with moves towards selling music without the infuriating DRM software that saw many users own computers crash (Tech World). Since the whole record industry opted for DRM-free downloading in 2008 the majors have been moving towards new ways of selling DRM free MP3’s.  Warner, following Sony Music have just signed up to EMusic, a service that sells MP3s in bulk, by charging a monthly subscription enabling a set number of downloads.  Their price point is lower than that of services like iTunes, who up till now have almost had a monopoly on the download sales.  More choice available for buying legal MP3’s at a reasonable price can only be good news for record companies and consumers alike.

Warner Music’s SVP Digital Strategy, Stephen Bryan, told reporters: “As a leader in the music industry’s transition to a predominantly digital music business, we have worked hard to encourage and support innovative partners and creative business models that offer our artists unique ways to reach their fans”.

Perhaps not so much with the times are Universal who are currently suing Grooveshark, a streaming music service accessed through your browser, where music fans are encouraged to upload their record collections to the platform which other users could then search. The result was a very comprehensive library of tracks. Universal’s lawsuit says that Grooveshark pays nothing to include music on its platform. It also criticises Grooveshark for not incorporating a YouTube-style content-block function onto to its platform to stop users uploading files that copyright owners do not wish to appear on the service. However EMI also pursued a high profile litigation against the service last year, eventually settling and entering into a licensing arrangement with Grooveshark. Universal’s may also follow suit… only time will tell.
CMU Daily 13th January 2009

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