David Prosser: Make the pirates pay

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The Independent Online

Outlook The BPI, the music industry's trade body, may have welcomed a Government crack down on illegal file-sharing yesterday, but if record company bosses – or their opposite numbers elsewhere in the entertainment business – think this will save them from the pirates, they'll be disappointed.

For one thing, these proposals target the users of file-sharing sites, rather than the sites themselves. We've tried this sort of thing before, criminalising drug possession while failing to bring the biggest dealers to book. That hasn't worked too well.

Moreover, it will take you less than five minutes online to find endless advice on how to access free music, film and games in such a way as to avoid identification. Only the most incompetent are going to get caught.

This is not to say the outpouring of rage on internet blogs is justifiable. Do those who think nothing of stealing someone else's intellectual property feel equally entitled to burgle or shop lift? However, the creative industries have to accept the genie is out of the bottle. Rather than fighting piracy, they'd do better cutting digital prices to a level where much greater numbers are prepared to pay, as market research suggests is possible. Some revenue is better than none.

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