The music industry gathered this weekend in Cannes, France, for the annual MIDEM conference, which is one of its biggest trade shows and generally leans quite heavily towards technology. Following the recent trend, the issue of DRM has been a hot topic, with plenty of stories about how record labels are "rethinking" the restrictions they impose on digital downloads. But it really doesn't look like anything is changing: you've got the requisite quotes from industry groups and progressive labels on both sides of the issue and calls from a major download provider for labels to drop DRM (making us again wonder why, if Real's Rob Glaser feels that way, he doesn't try and do something about it). One major-label executive says that labels must change their focus, and think less about unit sales and more about licensing. This is something of a welcome development, although too often "licensing" encompasses trying to extract money from places labels don't really have a claim for it. The real gem of the weekend, though, appears to have come out of the opening session, which featured talking heads from the MPAA and the RIAA alongside Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Electronics Association, who's the closest thing consumers have to a lobbyist. The MPAA and RIAA shills spouted their usual talking points, in particular the favorite fallacy that DRM is necessary to create new business models (when, of course, the exact opposite is true). The RIAA's Mitch Bainwol took a shot at Shapiro by accusing him of teaching "disrespect for intellectual property" -- which is apparently worse than disrespect for your paying customers, but we digress -- and said Shapiro makes the MPAA and RIAA look evil. Shapiro pointed out the obvious: that the groups don't need his help to look evil, since their penchant for suing kids and grandparents does a pretty good job of that on its own.
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