Piracy is a threat, but the Internet is the performer's best friend

Share
Related Topics
BRITISH Music Rights, a campaigning organisation set up by music publishers and composers, are demanding that the Government look into the enforcement of copyright on the Internet, insisting that Britain's third largest invisible export could be badly damaged without a legal framework.

Now it has become possible to download CD-quality music from Websites, music publishers are following in the footsteps of law enforcement, print publishers, and governments in demanding regulation to mitigate their fear of losing control.

Speaking as a former internationally obscure folk singer, it's pretty galling to see a huge, galumphing industry notorious for ripping off its artists pleading that there will be no incentive to invest in new work if the Internet isn't regulated now.

EMI made pounds 307m in profits last year; compare that to the pounds 40m the industry estimates it is losing to piracy.

While it is true that the many small record labels would be far more seriously damaged if piracy runs out of control, we all know perfectly well that any money clawed back from regulating Internet downloads won't go to those small companies. It will go to the big players: them that has, gets.

The Internet does not need special regulation in order to stop piracy. It is already clearly illegal to sell bootlegged copies of copyrighted works; the precise nature of the distribution mechanism is irrelevant.

Requiring Internet service providers and telecommunications companies to act as copyright police is still more inappropriate. British Music Rights have singled out Web-based fan sites, some of which have offered unreleased concert recordings or studio out-takes.

I'm more sympathetic on this last point, since artists only have the right to control the first recording of their songs (after that, issuing a licence to another artist to cover the song is automatic), and publication on the Web might easily jeopardise that right.

But can there be any sight more graceless than last year's demands from Oasis's management that Web-site owners take down all copyrighted material (photos, videos, song clips, lyrics)? A distinction has to be made between a for-profit bootleg operation and a fan site.

Copyright law is commonly thought of as existing to give creative artists the chance to profit from their work so that they can afford to go on being creative artists. But it has a balancing purpose, too, which is to give the public fair access to that work.

The fair use doctrine, which permits things like quoting from books and articles for the purpose of review, parody, or comment, does not apply to music. The use of the tiniest prion of a tune may be subject to legal action, even though musicians throughout history traditionally quoted from each other's work much the way book authors do.

If we are going to revise the copyright laws for the digital era, I believe fair use should be applied to music - and film, TV, and video, too.

The music industry has more reason than most to be scared of the Internet. Not only does the Net offer a low-cost distribution mechanism (albeit without the luxurious cover art), but it makes it easier for independent bands to develop a following and by-pass traditional record companies entirely.

But music publishers could, if they chose, see the Internet as an opportunity to build closer relationships between bands and Britain's 6m Web users. They could learn to use the unique qualities of the Net to sell products that would have been uneconomic before, such as niche artistes, scraps of music too short for radio play but suitable for Windows start-up noises, or custom recordings of personalised lyrics.

Unfortunately, British Music Rights has done the equivalent of declaring war on the Net. Not the best marketing strategy for a new millennium, I'd have thought.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'