James Blunt: Disconnecting Music Pirates is “Critical”

An increasing number of British musicians are making their opinions known on the issue of illicit file-sharing. Despite Peter Mandelson's proposals which ostensibly support the music industry, musicians are divided. Today it's the turn of James Blunt, who feels the proposed "disconnection" legislation is critical to the industry's survival.

“Sir, I want to put my hand up in support of Lily Allen. She’s asking British musicians to galvanise over a serious crime: the death of a great British industry — our music business. The world over, people are stealing music in its millions in the form of illegal file-sharing. It’s easy to do, and has become accepted by many, but people need to know that it is destroying people’s livelihoods and suffocating emerging British artists.”

These are the words of singer songwriter James Blunt in The Times today, in response to the opinions of Lily Allen published and republished a thousand times last week. Allen had taken a swipe at Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and Nick Mason, the Pink Floyd drummer, after they came out and said that file-sharing is beneficial for artists.

Both O’Brien and Mason are members of the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), which opposes plans by Peter Mandelson to disconnect persistent file-sharers, but they are becoming quite a problem for the rest of the industry.

The major labels, who hold the opposite opinion on the issue of unauthorized downloading, have been in intensive talks with FAC over the last week, trying to reach some sort of consensus on the way ahead. Somehow the music industry needs to show a united front to the government, but at the moment that seems very unlikely. Yesterday FAC said that so far they have failed to find a way forward with the rest of the industry.

“[The] power to demand suspensions of accounts is only achievable through a wide-scale invasion of personal privacy which we believe would result in a dangerous reduction in the rights to protection of the individual. Putting this power in place would reduce the civil liberties of every one of us in the country in order to afford a disincentive threat to a small minority of ‘egregious offenders’. We believe this would be both disproportionate and unenforceable,” said FAC in a statement.

FAC said that while it negotiated with the labels all last week, they cannot be moved from their insistence that file-sharers should be disconnected from the Internet. FAC says it is steadfast in its opposition to this route.

In an attempt to soften their edges and appear less aggressive, UK Music, yet another music industry umbrella organization, has removed the actual word “disconnection” from its press releases and statements. However, even a cursory glance at their current wording shows that this omission is purely cosmetic, instead stating: “…..Ofcom should be granted appropriate and proportionate powers as directed by the secretary of state.” Of course, Ofcom are the people that are being proposed to have the power to disconnect file-sharers.

So as FAC and the British public stand on one side, Peter Mandelson, the record labels and the likes of Lily Allen and now James Blunt stand on the other.

“At long last the Government is looking to legislate to protect the industry,” writes Blunt, while completely forgetting that the UK has some perfectly good copyright laws to deal with, surprisingly, copyright infringement.

“Peter Mandelson is looking to engage the internet service providers who, in my opinion, handle stolen goods, and should take much more responsibility,” Blunt continues, while forgetting that as a carrier, under the law ISPs have no responsibility for the traffic they carry or the actions of their subscribers.

“How this legislation pans out, and if it goes through at all, is critical to the survival of the British music business; critical to thousands of jobs; and critical to our ability to nurture and develop great musicians and the songs and albums that we would hope to listen to in the future,” Blunt concludes.

Bringing in draconian laws to scare the public into buying music is not the answer. Taking away people’s Internet is definitely not the solution. The labels need to realize this and instead provide some high quality all-you-can-eat music services at a price that everyone can afford.

And as UK ISP Virgin Media sends its message to the government that a “heavy-handed, punitive regime will simply alienate consumers” and that “persuasion not coercion” is the key to solving this illicit file-sharing ‘problem’, I’ll end with a few lines from martial artist and best-selling author Geoff Thompson’s book Watch My Back, as he writes about a gang trying to impose their will on others;

This crew had gained respect in the city, but it was respect born through fear; stolen not given. Respect is worthless unless it’s earned. Any half-wit can point a loaded gun and demand respect but it brings hate with it. Real respect encourages co-operation and understanding

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