Bono Puts Policing Piracy Into His Next Decade Top 10

Opinion

Many writers have been penning top 10 lists of one kind or another recently, either reviewing the last decade or looking forward to the next one. Among them, U2 frontman Bono has published his next-decade wish list, including a desire for the Internet to be policed for copyright infringement.

“A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can’t live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us,” writes the Irish rock star, listing his top 10 desires for the next decade.

It might not come as a surprise to most people, but Bono’s wish is a little out of touch with reality. By mimicking the words of the record label bosses high up the food chain of the music industry, he fails to see where the real problem lies.

Over the last ten years the RIAA mounted the most aggressive anti-piracy campaign against file-sharers seen anywhere, collecting millions in settlements from thousands of households. The songwriters didn’t benefit much from that.

The RIAA also collected as much as $400m from settlements from the likes of Napster, KaZaA and Bolt. That money was supposed to go to the artists whose rights had been allegedly infringed upon, but the labels weren’t that keen to hand any of that over either, even when faced with the threat of lawsuits from the artists themselves.

The major labels, Warner, Sony, EMI and Universal, are currently being sued by another group of artists over sales of compilation albums featuring their music for which they haven’t been given a cent. The money they’re owed collectively is a staggering $6 billion. Looks like the ‘little guy’ is in trouble without the assistance of file-sharing.

While one set of corporates ripping off musicians doesn’t get a mention in Bono’s top 10, other supposed evil-doers do. Singing from the same sheet as his paymasters at Universal, Bono also takes aim at ISPs, claiming that their “swollen” profits “perfectly mirror” the lost revenues in the music business.

This “blaming of the messenger” will be a continuing theme in the next decade, and one which Bono dwells on for a moment, noting that if it’s possible to crack down on online child pornography in the US, and China has the ability to suppress online dissent, then it’s also perfectly possible to track downloads of copyrighted music.

Well, yes, of course it is. That’s been perfectly possible for the last decade, but what good does it do? The RIAA has largely given up suing individuals and even when countries like France pass fairly draconian legislation to have people removed from the Internet for sharing content, there are plenty of ways around it.

“The only thing protecting the movie and TV industries from the fate that has befallen music and indeed the newspaper business is the size of the files,” says Bono. “The immutable laws of bandwidth tell us we’re just a few years away from being able to download an entire season of “24” in 24 seconds. Many will expect to get it free.”

While it’s true that we are only a couple of years away from being to download huge amounts of data in just a few seconds and that will have an impact on the volumes of movie and TV show downloading, we can’t actually watch a full season of “24” in 24 seconds. Real-time will suffice, though.

Right at this moment via sites like Watch-Movies-Online, it’s possible to view the very latest movies instantaneously. With the new streaming functionality available in the latest beta of uTorrent, the same can be achieved via torrent swarms.

Bono, the future is now. Suing Internet users does not work and blaming the ISPs will only prove counter-productive. Monitoring the Internet will prove futile. The only way to deal with piracy is to compete with it.

As we pointed out in our article covering the most downloaded TV shows of 2009, there is huge interest in on-demand TV and there are millions of viewers that can potentially bring in millions of dollars in revenue.

The growth in unauthorized downloading of TV shows and other media is a sign that consumers want something currently unavailable through the official channels, and while price is a factor, it is not necessarily all about ‘free’.

Serving the insatiable demand during the next decade at a reasonable price should be the main aim of the media industry, as locking down the Internet will not only suffocate their customers, but also their own business. That definitely won’t help the songwriters.

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