To provide more fuel for the ‘music should be free’ fire I’m going to run a short series of ‘Music Myths, Misconceptions and Mistakes’ posts, tackling one big ‘free’ issue at a time. Today’s topic is File sharing. Do comment. I can tell from my blog stats that there are large numbers of you reading these posts in silence. Remember, this is Web 2.0, it’s a dialogue not a one-way conversation!
File Sharing: 10 Mistakes, Myths and Misconceptions
- Mistake: The record labels tried to sue Napster out of existence rather than focus on harnessing the new, emerging behaviour patterns. A store with even iTunes-like catalogue and usage rights (let alone a Comes with Music or Datz) in 1999 / 2000 would have stunted much of the growth of file sharing
- Misconception: The labels didn’t understand what was going on with file sharing. The labels did have tech expertise, nothing like they have now, but enough to know what was going on and to build some pretty sophisticated legal cases,
- Myth: File sharing actually grows the music industry. There’s no doubt file sharing’s impact is not all bad (40% of European digital music buyers file share also) but any positive impact of file sharing is significantly outweighed by the negative impact and the long term damage to consumers’ perception of music as a paid commodity.
- Myth: Illegal file sharing is theft. Downloading copyrighted works without rights owner permission is copyright infringement, not theft
- Mistake: Not exercising the option to launch a legal free service on Kazaa. As part of the settlement the labels established the legal framework for launching a legal service on the network and to share in any revenues if sold. Could you imagine how successful a CWM or Spotify or Last.FM or Qtrax would have been on Kazaa? Sure most would have voted with their feet, but even if just 5% of the tens of millions of Kazaa users opted in…
- Myth: File sharing applications are predominately designed and used for innocent, legal activity. How Kazaa’s lawyers could keep a straight face when arguing that Kazaa had been developed for legitimate purposes and was widely used for such, I just don’t know. The argument is still used today. Sure, there are legal uses, just in the same way there are legal uses for an AK47 assault rifle. Legal uses are not what most file sharing applications are designed for.
- Myth: You can’t build filtering technology into file sharing applications. Whilst it is correct that it is impossible to create a watertight filtering system, there are enough tactics that can hinder the illegal file sharing experience to such a degree that it will deter many users from conducting the activity. Solutions include simple metadata checks (e.g. song names), audio fingerprint tests, etc.
- Misconception: Illegal file sharing can be eradicated. It can’t be and it won’t be. The best target is to drive illegal file sharing to the margins in just the same way that shop lifting is in high street music shops.
- Misconception: The record labels expect to win just through legal action. Legal action against individuals is part of a multi-pronged strategy which, particularly in Europe, includes string focus on licensing to innovative new services.
- Misconception: File sharing is the core problem. Consumers are increasingly going ‘off-network’ to share music e.g. Instant Messaging, email, forums, ‘iPod ripping’, USB etc.