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Music biz changes tune on Net threat

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A music industry executive has finally gone public and revealed what business' real attitude to the Internet and music piracy.

"We've far more to fear from a surplus of CD manufacturing here in Asia, where in some markets 90 per cent of CDs are bootlegged, than from the Internet," EMI senior VP Jay Samit later told Reuters.

Samit also spoke out at the MTV-Billboard Asian Music Conference, held today in Hong Kong. Again, what seems like more honesty: "As an industry we suck. As an industry the vast majority of the products we create don't make anyone any money... [but] the Internet has grown things more than ever. That extra sale, that extra distribution... all that is the difference between an artist continuing to create art or going and working in a bank."

In other words, the Net is a good thing and the music biz needs to get behind it.

Except, of course, it already is. Samit is simply repeating what the industry has known for some time - what looks like a change of heart has come along solely because the major labels are at last ready to turn digital music distribution to their advantage. EMI is launching just such a service next month. Sony won't be far behind and Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) will follow them both this summer.

All of which exposes the industry's previous complaints about how, thanks to rampant piracy, the Net is a major threat to music were just so many attempts to spread FUD.

Still, the conference did raise some real issues. International Federation of the Phonographic Industry chairman Jason Berman pointed out that new, worldwide copyright laws will soon become essential.

"We need an adequate legal framework,'' he said, according to Reuters. "What the Internet does is globalise your business, and the idea of having 50 or 60 different copyright regimes simply will not accommodate that kind of business.''

But that remains separate from the music industry's attempts to take control of online distribution - unifying such regimes will simply streamline the major labels' distribution efforts, not provide them with a basis for such operations. ®

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