Universal music chief blasts Slashdot
DMF The president of Universal Music Group's digital division, Larry Kenswil, dipped into Slashdot to illustrate the kind of laggards who are holding up progress in digital music.
How did he figure that out, exactly?
Kenswil was speaking at the Digital Music Forum in New York, earlier today, where we're in town to take the pulse of the industry. The RIAA director drew attention to three groups he called "pie throwers".
One group was manufacturers - such as Samsung and Helix - who he highlighted for producing hybrid MP3 players and satellite radios that record the streams. Thanks to a loophole in US copyright law, satellite radio recorders are the next big legal battleground - with Apple believed to be in the advanced stages of adding satellite streams as podcasts to its iTunes store.
"It's a great example of how you can lose it all for everyone if you set out to gain an extra cent for yourself," said Kenswil.
The second group were the telcos, who Kenswil said might threaten to bring in tiered internet pricing. When we asked Larry about this later, he said he still wasn't sure how seriously to take the big telcos hints that they wanted to charge differential pricing. "We're probably neutral on net neutrality right now," he joked.
The final group he referred to as "the utopians".
"It's the capitalism-is-evil crowd, the folks who want stuff for free - and you will find them on Slashdot," he said.
Kenswil quoted, to much appreciative laughter from the music industry audience, a Slashdot author called "albertpacino" for the saying that the music industry had "chosen to be blind about the issue."
Alas, when we tried to check the citation, neither Slashdot nor Google could produce any trace of a user with that name. None of the search engines could locate the phrase "blind about the issue". Kenswil's presentation included the quote reformatted for a PowerPoint presentation - so errors may have crept in as it was transcribed by his staff - or your reporter. Maybe the user cited figured out a way to leave and wipe all trace of his comments behind him - but it's all a little odd.
He was on firmer ground with his evidence when he quoted TechWeb editor Fredric Paul, for an article entitled "Why Everyone Hates the Music Industry", which you can find here.
And we could have provided him with an even better example: the famous "p2p is leagal its in the air" we received from a Kentucky school.
But Kenswil paid particular attention to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, "zeropaid", and Downhill Battle Labs.
"One wonders if they haven't got anything better to do," mused the Universal executive.
"With all the crap going on in the world, is Sony BMG the worst corporation in the world? Is it worse than the spammers, or the people who write viruses on purpose?" he asked.
"A lot of this is just fund-raising demagoguery. All they're saying is send us the money. But when you ask them what do they think is going to happen to the industry - the answer is some amorphous 'we'll figure it out eventually'".
All good knockabout stuff for his audience - and it's easy enough to find a copyright extremist in diapers to represent the opposition. There's plenty of intelligent discussion on Slashdot.
But Kenswil does, unfortunately, emphasize a depressing aspect of the debate we've often touched upon, and he goes on to prove the point himself. Which is that extremists from both sides need each other's caricatures, so they can continue to posture for their own base.
The RIAA needs to present us with extremists who think copyright is dead, or who don't value creativity. In turn these people need an opponent that keeps suing its customers, maintains cartel pricing structures for digital services, and produces irrational arguments against blanket licensing. And, guess what? The RIAA is only too happy to oblige.
Fortunately there is enough material progress, with new services such as Mashboxx and PlayLouder, and sensible talk (largely off the record) to confirm that the extremists of both sides are increasingly irrelevant.
For more reports on the politics of blanket licensing, and the new services, stay tuned. ®