Music v. Tech – How to Stop Fighting Yesterday’s Wars

Google recently released some startlingly large numbers relating to the number of copyright infringement takedown requests it receives and continues to act upon. Almost at the same time (it can’t entirely be a coincidence) the UK book publishers’ trade association chief unleashed a broadside which looked calculated to prevent dialogue between content and tech for some time. For context, the Publishers’ Association chief used to be the lobbyist for the BPI, the UK record business body that appears in Google’s top ten complainants.

Round table discussions brokered by the UK Government are supposed to be finding constructive ways forward, but appear to have stalled. UK ISPs are far from engaging at a commercial level with music, apart from a half-hearted affiliate deal here and there.

Maybe the wrong people are in the room. Certainly more discussions happen between lawyers, trade associations, Government, and liability or anti-piracy staff than between the people who could actually do something to create new value. Does anyone really think a civil servant can invent the next decade of music industry infrastructure? No, thought not.

Even the diehard digital rights activists that I talk to are aware of many positive uses of copyright (the integrity of open source licences depends on it) and would be excited by a genuine collaboration between music and technology. And analysts in tech and telcos are sweating over spreadsheets constantly trying to justify a business case for investing in new and innovative services. Innovators and engineers have no shortage of ideas. That much is obvious.

So here’s a call. Skills, music, and distribution – let’s sideline the ranters, lobbyists, blowhards, politicians, and anyone else who thinks that they have a right to get in the way of progress. Music and technology are natural partners that should be bigging each other up, not trying to shame and hobble each other, and neither needs to go whining to Government for help. None of us want to end up being told how to live our lives by politicians. We can and must work together.

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