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The music cartel needs to back off its fight against ‘piracy’

Column Should be more like the bear
Fri Nov 30 2012, 13:22

HONEY OBSESSED anthropomorphic bear Winnie the Pooh made headlines this month for all the wrong reasons.

Pooh, of Pooh Corner, the Hundred Acre Wood, has apparently carved out something of a niche for himself as a model and no longer stresses about honey, attempts to cheer up a donkey, or takes an interest in the machinations of a piglet. Nay, instead he is lending his face to children's laptops these days.

One of those laptops was confiscated from a nine year old girl this month, simply because she might have downloaded one CD.

The girl had tried to listen to part of a CD online, but somehow she wound up at a torrent website. There she partly downloaded the CD, but not realising that, did nothing with it. Instead, she and her father went out the next day and bought a copy of the CD at a store.

The father, not knowing anything about the aborted download, was surprised to receive a letter from the anti-'piracy' cartel front group CIAPC, the Finnish Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Centre, which accused him of copyright infringement and told him it would cost €600 to make the problem go away.

Unaware that his daughter had started to download a CD, he declined its offer to accept a payoff and considered the business over. It wasn't though, and during a subsequent raid by the Finnish police in which his daughter's laptop was seized, he allegedly was told that if he had paid up, the police raid would not have been carried out.

We don't know the proper term for it in Finnish, but in hard-boiled works of fiction, that sort of racket is called a 'shakedown'.

Now we learn that the problem has in fact gone away because the father coughed up a €300 payoff to the CIAPC, just weeks before Christmas.

Now, I don't want to infringe on Charles Dickens' copyright here, but these copyright cartel people... well, I mean, that's the sort of thing that got Ebenezer Scrooge his reputation.

Barging into a house? Demanding a large sum of money? Taking away a little girl's toys? It doesn't look good. What's next? Taking puppies hostage for music tracks? Where does it stop? Will a tiny kitten be drowned whenever an illegally downloaded piece of music is discovered? Let's hope not. What is needed instead is some sense of balance and a more civilised music industry.

This week, in the UK and far removed from Winnie the Pooh laptops, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) - another front group for the music copyright cartel - requested that the UK Pirate Party stop providing a proxy link to The Pirate Bay. The BPI has given the Pirate Party six days to respond.

"Illegal sites like The Pirate Bay make it harder for new bands to get signed and for innovative digital music services to flourish," said BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor.

At the start of October the BPI was telling us that artists' revenues from "all rights" deals had increased by 14 percent year on year.

"British music companies have reinvented their businesses for the digital age, marketing and promoting music intelligently through every channel available," said Taylor then. "British music is on a global high and the UK's creative industries have enormous potential to generate new jobs and economic growth, if Government gets serious about tackling online theft of content."

We get the point, but the point does start to become too oppressive. Supposedly rampant music 'piracy' is hurting profits, but profits are rising anyway. The music copyright cartel's campaign seems particularly overwrought when you see who these so-called anti-'piracy' crusades are making into criminals.

Scrooge, of course, had to suffer and see what he had lost to realise the error of his ways, and I'm not convinced that the music and film industries are really suffering. It's been well established that people who download copyrighted media also buy more of it than those who don't, and the big media companies are making more money than ever.

This Christmas the copyrights holding companies and performers' representatives should start to become more like the philosophical bear Pooh, who always wanted honey, but knew that getting it would cost him in some way, and less like the miserly and miserable Ebenezer. µ


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