Last week, a group of music and other entertainment industry representatives urged the UK government to consider drafting legislation that would force ISPs to disconnect alleged pirates. This proposal now faces opposition from an unexpected corner as a coalition of top artists has spoken out against it, saying that disconnecting their fans is the wrong path to take.
In an attempt to have their voices heard, a group of leading musicians have started their own lobby group, the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC). The group includes members such as Robbie Williams, Billy Bragg, Radiohead, Iron Maiden and Travis, and aims to correct music labels and lobby groups that claim to act in the best interest of artists.
The most recent intervention by the coalition of artists concerns the call by entertainment industry lobby groups for so called ‘three-strikes’ legislation, to disconnect repeat copyright infringers. Again, the copyright lobby has been acting on its own and without asking for input from the very artists they claim to represent.
“Not for the first time, we at the Featured Artist Coalition are forced to question whether the record industry is representing the best interests of artists in calling for such measures,” UK musician Billy Bragg writes in an article for the Guardian, dealing with the topic. According to Bragg the music industry is trying to blame ISPs for a ‘problem’ that is not as easily solved as it would first appear.
“Never mind that this is a shameful attempt to pass responsibility on to another sector of industry, the question remains whether or not such measures will have the desired effect. Technology has so far stayed ahead of enforcement. Any unauthorised filesharers who fear being caught out can simply encrypt their exchanges,” Bragg writes.
He further claims that it is sometimes hard for fans to find DRM-free music anywhere else than on file-sharing networks. The demands of music fans have changed with the emergence of the Internet, but the music industry has failed to offer decent alternatives thus far.
“The Featured Artist Coalition is opposed to copyright infringement, but we recognise that, if technology allows people to access music for free, they will take advantage. The next generation of music fans may no longer want to pay for music, but they are still hungry to hear it. The challenge to the industry is to find ways to monetise their behaviour.”
“Clearly, some form of P2P subscription service is the way forward, if only because it provides the most convenient way for consumers to access music,” Bragg argues.
Eventually the labels might have to give up the distribution component that has been at the core of their business for years on end. This paints an uncertain future for the labels and that might be one of the main reasons why they are so resistant. Or to put it in Bragg’s words;
“Yet for the major labels, the success of such an initiative would mean the end of their control over the distribution of music. Is this the real reason why they seem determined to do everything they can to clip the wings of the fledgling digital industry before it can fly?”