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Luddite and paranoid - why the big record labels failed at digital

Martin Mills

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Tommy Silverman said recently that home CD burners are the biggest challenge, more than P2P, which gets all the attention - because you now see blockbuster first weekend sales that fall off really dramatically in the second weekend.

It's always happened and it will never go away. But it's better quality now and cheaper, and more of a direct substitution than P2P.

Anything that allows someone to consume music they'd otherwise be paying for makes it more difficult to make it enough money out of recorded music to carry on recording. I think P2P does have a discovery element to it, and it you may discover something on P2P that makes you buy a product. CD burning is much more domestic piracy, and is much more somebody avoiding paying for something.

Personally I think the levy system on blank media that's in many parts of Europe is a very, very blunt instrument, and the industry derives only small revenues from it. Personally I'd like to see a much more sophisticated instrument. I think the principle holds good that anybody who makes money from the free use of the music should really be licensed by the owners of the music.

I see lots of ideas for physical containers for music we'd actually want. Volume was a great example with its book/magazine, and the good independents do beautiful booklets and packaging But you have more freedom – and the majors don't have that wiggle room if their the CD division of Time Warner, say, with a book division next door.

The big guys have very firm internal rules about what they spend on packaging - and very draconian remedies if the packaging costs more, and the remedy involves the artist paying most or all of the overhead!

Anyone who releases or licenses music through a major knows how stringent their guidelines for packaging are. Independents don't do that. Independents invariably look at what's going to be good for the project, or what the artist wants. But it makes the packaging the independents make much more attractive.

And your hopes for 2008?

I would like to see copyright modernized in 2008, with people enabled to do what they want to do, and those who profit from it allowing the practice [third parties] to be monetized. I'd like to see barriers taken away from the enjoyment of music.

How?

If you abolish copyright you abolish the ability to monetize multiple copies of music. I don't see why you'd want to throw that away. The copyright industry is a huge part of the UK's national wealth – why should we want to throw that away?

So you want to de-criminalize sharing with compensation?

Yes, but where the government is heading on copyright on private copying is completely crazy. They're trying to define a really, really, really narrow use which is "authorized" - they'll never do that. The headlines in the papers day after all said "Private Copies Will Be Legal" . They didn't say "Just this little bit of it". I think they're mad.

You wouldn't make private copies legal without assurance of some revenue back?

I would like to make it much more legal than they want, it to be, but I would establish revenue streams coming from it.

Do you share BPI concerns you'll eventually be able to drive a bus through the private copying concession?

[The government] is affecting the legal sanctity of copyright. What we're dealing with is copyright in a commercial world. To me in a commercial world, you have to enable private copying. You've just got to work out some way of getting paid for it.®


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