U2’s longtime manager Paul McGuinness, a man highly respected in the recording industry, got his speech today at Midem ass backwards.
He called for Internet service providers (ISPs), telecom companies, and hardware manufacturers to help in the fight against music piracy on the Web. That’s good.
But then he said, “I suggest we shift the focus of moral pressure away from the individual P2P file thief and on to the multibillion dollar industries that benefit from these countless tiny crimes.”
No matter what I think of Microsoft, Google, AOL, Yahoo, Comcast, Vodafone, Facebook, and Apple, it doesn’t seem to me that they are at fault for the recording industry’s woes. Yet McGuinness rubs their noses in it, saying “their snouts have been at our trough feeding for free for too long.” (Financial Times account.)
Yes, these companies have made boatloads of money off the recording industry, but it seems to me that they are not the enemy but rather a part of the solution.
McGuinness should be rallying the recording industry first, and oh by the way one scenario, a different way to look at the problem, involves the ISPs, telecos, and device-makers. Let’s all get together and explore the possibilities.
Instead, McGuinness cast aspersions on those who could work with the recording industry and possibly bring about profound change. “We must shame them into wanting to help us,” he said.
Shame is such a strong word. It implies that the recording industry is doing things right, while others are not. If anybody should be shamed, it’s the mixed-up recording industry who has made a royal mess of its own house, failing to recognize and accept that these are new digital times, with quickly-evolving technologies and cultural behaviors.
While it’s good that McGuinness suggests that the recording industry shift its focus away from suing small-fry P2P downloaders, concentrating on the ISPs, telecos, and device-makers like they are part of the problem, not the solution, is misguided.
“Network operators should take responsibility for the content they’ve profited on for years,” he said.
McGuinness said his business model of the future is one where music is bundled into an ISP or other subscription services and revenues are shared between the distributor and the content owners.
Invoking the ISPs, telecos, and hardware manufacturers into the solution is not a new. It’s an idea, known in some forms as a “compulsory licensing tax”, that has been around for a few years. One scenario is to collect money from ISPs, telecos, and device manufacturers into a pool, then split the pot evenly among the artists and writers, recording labels and others in the industry.
The pool of money comes from a small tax levied by the ISP or teleco (say $6 a month) for unlimited access to music from the major and independent recording labels. Device-makers like Apple and Microsoft add to the purchase price of an iPod or Zune, respectively, a small fee or tax that’s paid to the recording industry for the right to sell music players that piggyback on their content.
“This ‘content’ tax seems like a reasonable solution to the current, rather ridiculous environment in which each piece of music must be individually licensed, from each rights owner, on a track-by-track basis,” Gerd Leonhard and David Kusek wrote in their 2005 book “The Future of Music.” “We believe that charging for music at the primary point of access, rather than in every single instance, is a powerful concept,” they wrote. (See also last100’s Music industry: five alternative business models).
In this scenario, the ISPs, telecos, and device-makers are a part of the solution, not the problem.
Photo credit of McGuinness, U2 leader Bono: u2station.com