Music chief: preventing file-sharing is a "waste of time"

Pink Floyd manager hits out music industry's efforts to thwart illegal file-sharing

Barry Collins
14 Jul 2010

A leading music industry figure has labelled attempts to thwart internet file-sharing as a "waste of time".

Peter Jenner, the former manager of Pink Floyd and now emeritus president of the International Music Managers' Forum (IMMF), launched a scathing attack on the music industry's tactics at a Westminster e-Forum.

"Attempts to stop people copying are clearly a waste of time," said Jenner. "Not only are they a waste of time, they make the law offensive. They are comparable to prohibition in the US in the 1920s."

Copyright is about the right to copy. We cannot control people's right to copy if they have computers

"It's absurd to expect ordinary members of the public to think about what they're allowed to do [with CDs, digital downloads, etc]... and then ask themselves whether it's legal or not," he added.

Jenner said the music industry was fighting against the economics of the internet age. "The marginal cost of a digital file is essentially zero," said Jenner. "That means the market is going to be pushing the cost of digital files to zero. This is an inescapable fact."

"We're fighting against the tide, we're fighting against economic reality."

Jenner said the industry had to consider entirely rewriting copyright law and find new revenue models to preserve the industry. "We have to start thinking radically. Copyright is about the right to copy. We cannot control people's right to copy if they have computers."

He said the industry could adopt the model of sites such as Rapidshare, which offers paying subscribers the opportunity to get faster downloads. "If we can get £1 a month from every person on this island [Great Britain] for music... this is getting very close to the current level of revenue for recorded music," Jenner claimed.

Criminalising a generation

Jenner wasn't the only one calling for a complete overhaul of copyright law. Vanessa Barnett, partner with digital law experts Berwin Leighton Paisner, argued that copyright law had lost the support of the public.

"People don’t feel in their hearts that it’s wrong [to copy music]. We’ve lost the battle over hearts and minds for copyright law."

"A law is only as good as the society that’s prepared to accept it," she added.

Barnett claimed the hurried passage of the Digital Economy Act had further undermined public support for content owners. "We need to properly reflect where copyright law is in the wake of the rush job of the Digital Economy Act," she said.

"From a hearts and minds perspective, the way the act was shoved through parliament has done more harm than good. People see the act as a tool of music industry lobbying."

Law-abiding public

I do accept there's widespread confusion about copyright among consumers

Other music industry figures disagreed with Jenner and Barnett, arguing the law still held firm. "I do not believe there is widespread rejection of copyright among consumers," argued Alison Wenham, chair and chief executive of the Association of Independent Music. "I do accept there's widespread confusion about copyright among consumers."

Will Page, chief economist of the Performing Rights Society, argued that the proliferation of file-sharing sites were damaging legitimate services. "Spotify would have a far better chance of surviving, rather than sinking, if it wasn't for the unfair polluting effect of file-sharing networks," he argued.

Independent record labels agreed. "We put out our records every week, they get ripped off, and we see them online," said Matt Riley, head of digital promotion at Hospital Records. "We want people to copy our music and share it, but we want people to buy it."

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