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Gov ready to drop Gowers?

Music biz hopes so

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Is the Government edging away from the recommendations made in the Gowers Report? The British music business seems to think so - based on perceived nudges and winks from the new Culture Secretary Andy Burnham. Burnham addressed the Annual General Meeting of the non-profit collection society the PPL yesterday - but your reporter found it hard to detect anything as concrete as a policy wiggle. Not yet, anyway.

You read the runes, and be the judge.

The Gowers Report is loathed by the British music business because it fails to back a term extension on sound recordings and because it blessed the introduction of uncompensated format shifting - in contrast to most of the rest of Europe.

PPL chairman and chief executive Fran Nevrkla yesterday described Gowers as "deeply hostile, flawed, now discredited".

On the subject of the copyright term extension for sound recordings - currently at 50 years - Burnham said he thought there may be what he called "a new dimension" to the debate that hadn't been addressed. Performers who were reaching retirement were being deprived of revenue from popular recordings, just when they need the money the most, he acknowledged.

"If there's an angle around session musicians it might change the terms of the debate," said Burnham, who said this could generate new grounds for compromise. For now, he was content to punt the issue up to Europe, and see what Commissioner McCreevy decided.

However, when when he turned to online file sharing, Burnham appeared to give little encouragement to the audience.

"Young people don't see format shifting as an offence, and are not conducive to sympathizing with the plight of big corporations," said Burnham.

(Up to a point, Lord Copper. Freetard activists often sympathize with the plight of big corporations, we must point out - such as Google and large telecoms companies - when it suits them.)

Burnham urged the business to "have faith in human nature" and gave the example of Radiohead's In Rainbows, which demonstrated that people would buy something even when there was a free alternative.

Burnham also complained that the music business had taken "a disproportionate part of our disposable income" in the past - a statement that chilled some of the assembled. Then again, he admitted that he had bought The Wedding Present's single George Best four times in four different formats. And, er… whose fault was that?

Burnham acknowledged there was a need "to shift the perception of not valuing creativity" but was wary of speaking in anything other generalities.

There were "no cast iron solutions," he said. Not a lot to cheer up the recordings biz, there.

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