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Robbie Williams, Billy Bragg et al say downloads aren't illegal

Hits out at music industry bigwigs

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A lobby group consisting of well-known UK musicians has argued that individuals should not be prosecuted for downloading illegal music from the interwebs.

The Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) was stitched together last autumn and is made up of 140 or so of Blighty’s rock and pop stars including Blur drummer Dave Rowntree, Annie Lennox and Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien.

At the outfit’s inaugural meeting last night, the FAC said the likes of YouTube and MySpace should be required to remunerate the artists when their music is used for advertising.

It’s also seeking support from the government in the hope of creating a “nationwide education programme” to offer advice about the music industry biz to young artists.

Billy Bragg, who sits on the newly-formed group’s board of directors, told the Independent last night that the majority of artists who had registered their support of the FAC’s charter were opposed to criminal prosecutions against individuals accused of downloading music illegally.

He did not reveal which musicians supported such a move that some execs within the music industry have recently been pushing for.

The coalition also plans to meet with Lord Carter, who has previously come out in favour of throwing the book at ordinary members of the public who illegally download music.

"What I said at the meeting was that the record industry in Britain is still going down the road of criminalising our audience for downloading illegal MP3s," Bragg told the Indie.

"If we follow the music industry down that road, we will be doing nothing more than being part of a protectionist effort. It's like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube.

"Artists should own their own rights and they should decide when their music should be used for free, or when they should have payment."

The group's gripes against "under the table deals between multi-national corporations" came just 48 hours after Google pulled the plug on UK access to most music videos on YouTube's website on Monday.

The world's largest ad broker yanked music vids from the UK wing of its popular site after negotiations with the Performing Rights Society, which collects royalties for musicians, turned sour. ®

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