To Litigate or not to litigate

Just as the front page of today’s Music Week is awash with news of the BPI’s ‘warn- not-litigate’ policy, the IFPI announces from it’s London Secretariat that it is taking legal action against individual file sharers in various countries as part of an international strategy. On the day that Peter Jamieson is quoted that the BPI is only “considering a strategy which could involve taking legal action” the IFPI announces that they have been hard at it for some time. At best the message is confused, at worst it looks like a breakdown in communication with the two bodies, or even conflicting strategies. Whatever the cause, the effect is consumer confusion.

The average consumer will not make the distinction between the IFPI or the BPI (nor should they be expected to). To the average consumer the bottom line is two contradictory sets of messages from the music industry. Furthermore, we supposedly live in a single European market, yet the IFPI is only currently actively pursuing legal action in certain countries. The implication of which is that it’s fine to use file sharing networks in some countries and not others.

But the worst aspect of this for consumers is timing. I fully support the record industry’s right to protect its intellectual property and to take legal action against those who participate in heavy infringement of legal action. But to take such action before a compelling competitive legitimate market is in place is an ill advised move. Legal action should not be taken until there are legal services in place that allow consumers to search extensive catalogue where all of the catalogue displayed is available at €0.99, available for multiple CD burning for no extra cost and (most importantly) is transferable to a portable digital device (again at no extra cost).

Otherwise the message is that using the Internet to source both burnable and portable music is illegal. Is this the right sort of message to send out to consumers just as Europe’s legitimate sector is about finally get out of second gear?

POSTSCRIPT: Album sales increased in volume terms in 2003 in the UK.

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