Just after the All-party Internet Group moved towards a sensible position on DRM, the British Phonographic Industry gave confused testimony to the Select Committee for Culture, Media & Sport inquiry into New Media and the Creative Industries.
Obviously, the Record Labels' official lobbying group is going to be self serving, but they do seem very confused by DRM, judging by their headlines:
- BPI reassures consumers: “We will not sue you for filling your iPod with music you have bought yourself"
- Failure to extend copyright term "could turn an export into an import” - akin to scattering Britain's crown jewels of music across the globe.
- BPI to sue illegal website AllofMP3.com
- Digital downloads can cost more to distribute than CDs
- BPI hopes to reach voluntary settlement on download royalties
- Apple should make iTunes compatible with other players
- Music “more popular than ever”
Let's group these together and deduce some consistent legislative proposals
BPI reassures consumers: “We will not sue you for filling your iPod with music you have bought yourself"
BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson: “We believe that we now need to make a clear and public distinction between copying for your own use and copying for dissemination to third parties and make it unequivocally clear to the consumer that if they copy their CDs for their own private use in order to move the music from format to format we will not pursue them.”
Excellent, so lets have a law explicitly permitting non-commercial copying, and lets also make DRM technology that interferes with it illegal.
Apple should make iTunes compatible with other players
Jamieson called on Apple to open up its software in order that it is compatible with other players. “We would advocate that Apple opts for interoperability,” he said.
Well, iTunes is actually pretty good at turning locked purchased files into uncompressed Audio CDs. That said, requiring them to distribute DRM-free files would solve this problem too. So nice to find a policy that satisfies all your points.
The next three are a bit of a conundrum, however
BPI to sue illegal website AllofMP3.com
AllofMP3.com’s claims to be legal are false, she said. Neither artists nor record companies receive any payment from the site.
BPI hopes to reach voluntary settlement on download royalties
BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson revealed that the BPI, together with music download stores and mobile companies are still trying to reach an amicable settlement in their dispute with music publishers and songwriters over the royalties which must be paid on downloads.
So, the BPI and AllOfMp3.com are both selling downloads that they don't have clear rights to? Tricky stuff. And yet:
Digital downloads can cost more to distribute than CDs
When questioned on the relative prices of CDs and downloads, Richardson revealed that for an independent company like his, the costs charged by digital distributors are actually higher than those for physical product.
Speaking later, he said, “It is early days for digital music. At this point in time the cost of distribution for downloads is actually higher than for CDs. Regardless of that, however, distribution remains a relatively small part of the investment record companies make in music. All of the key costs for a piece of music remain virtually the same whatever format you distribute it on.”
This gets more confusing. Apple takes a small enough proportion of the price per song for the iTunes store that it has been accused of loss-leading them to sell iPods, and AllofMP3.com is just charging for bandwidth, so how are you running up these costs?
Clearly we need to find a way to separate paying for music from distributing it, as combining them, and trying to wrap them up in DRM is what is causing you such problems.
Failure to extend copyright term "could turn an export into an import” - akin to scattering Britain's crown jewels of music across the globe.
“British music is one of Britain's greatest ambassadors, but failure to extend term could turn an export into an import,” he said. “If we lose the Crown Jewels of British music, little money will flow back to the UK.”
Ok, you've really lost me there. If the UK term is lower than foreign ones, as at present, then that is a great way to favour domestic production over imports - you can sell old foreign recordings in the UK with impunity, and you have 45 years more protection in the US so you can export your back catalogue there. Seems like a win-win for the UK public and economy, and suggests there would be a big benefit from shortening copyright terms in the UK further.
Music “more popular than ever”
Asked to summarise the position of UK record companies, Jamieson said, “Music has never been more popular. But it’s not time to break out the champagne just yet. Digital was always a threat and an opportunity, and I believe we are getting beyond the threat stage.
Richardson dismissed the idea that the internet somehow renders record companies redundant. Many of the oft-quoted examples of internet-built bands are simply an adaptation of long-established business methods. “Far from doing without record companies, they have used the internet to get themselves better deals with record companies,” he said.
So, music is more free, more available, more popular, and less subject to manipulation and domination by the labels. I think it is time to break out the champagne.