Peter Jenner, emeritus president of the UK’s International Music Managers’ Forum (IMMF) here returns to the MidemNet Blog with this poignant post on piracy…
It is an article of faith that p2p is piracy, theft and a destroyer of the music business. It is worth looking at this position that we all take for granted. Some of us don’t like the emotional use of the words piracy and theft, but we have been carried along by it and feel the need to talk about unauthorised use, and other less emotional descriptions.
But the basic argument is that p2p is the equivalent of a lost sale, and if we look at the total number of files shared and consider each one a lost sale we get some pretty exciting figures of ‘losses’ which can be thrown around.
But the p2p ‘pirates’ are not a very impressive bunch of criminals, as they do not sell their wares, but rather give them away. They are not the physical pirates who copy a CD and sell it without passing any of the money on. Rather they are acting more like a library without state funding. They put up their files and anyone can download them. OK, you don’t have to give them back, but at the same time a download of a cloned file does not deprive anyone of the chance to listen to the music. On the contrary it increases the supply. In some senses the p2p community can be seen as a very altruistic group who share their stock of music with the world.
This also leads one to think of the whole issue not as one of lost sales, bt rather as a change in the way we share music amongst ourselves. If oe buys a record or CD one can play it to one’s friends, one can swap it, one can sell it second hand, and one could, in days of yore, also make a copy on cassette to give to one’s friends (not legally but ..).
One could copy off the radio one’s favourite songs, or go to the library and borrow a record and copy it (again not legally, but…). Both radio and libraries were ways of sharing music, just as p2p is.
So the issue for the creators is not who has a copy and where did he get it from, but rather who is making money from this activity and where is my share? At this point we have to look to the ISPs who know that a significant proportion of their broadband subscriptions are driven by the public’s desire to download copyright material. We have learnt that
nothing can really stop the distribution of digital files so that we should be looking to the ISPs and the MSPs to provide the revenue that is needed to support the process of making recorded music, both from the point of time and use of resources of the people making the music.
More generally one can suggest that with the development of the technology of digital distribution one needs to always be finding the people who are making the money from it directly or indirectly and expect them to pay a reasonable share of their income for the content that is being accessed.
I don’t want to hear about lost CD sales or declining revenue anymore, but I do want to hear about how we can help develop the new digital distribution models which can generate income both for them, but also the creators.
My next rant will be about how little record company net revenues have declined as a result of digital distribution and to ask why the artists are getting so thoroughly worked over.