Peter Jenner Admits That Stopping File Sharing Is Impossible

from the some-progress dept

Peter Jenner, who's known for being the former manager of Pink Floyd, as well as managing other acts such as Billy Bragg, is known for his outspoken views on file sharing. He's certainly no fan of the labels, but a couple years ago I saw him go on a rant against evil "freeriders," demanding that the government step in and set up a blanket licensing program. I actually got to meet Peter briefly a few months ago in Europe, and we chatted for a bit and have exchanged a few friendly emails. He even asked to write a guest post for Techdirt, which I agreed to, though I haven't heard anything from him since.

Either way, he just gave a talk in the UK, where he's still pushing the concept of a blanket license, but he's certainly coming to terms with the fact that file sharing is something that needs to be embraced, not feared. That link, from MusicAlly, has all the details of his talk, but we'll cover a few highlights. He kicked off his speech by making the same basic economic point that many of us have made for years:
"It seems to me that in the online world, the marginal cost of a digital file is essentially zero," he says, making it an "inescapable reality" that the digital world is pushing the price of music towards zero.

"If we rely on a copyright law -- i.e. a right to copy law -- we're clearly barking down a historical blind alley." He says the comparison is making airline legislation based on the rail network. "There aren't many signals in the sky..."

So, he criticises the "quasi-monopoly rights" of the international record companies, which have come up against a "huge problem" in the digital world.
Later he points out that its the record labels who keep demanding greater copyright, not most artists, and then points out that (somewhat contrary to his anti-freerider rants from a few years back), focusing on the "stick" of stopping such actions isn't going to help.
Onto the digital world -- "attempts to stop people copying are clearly a waste of time, and not only are they a waste of time, they make the law offensive. It's very similar to prohibition in America in the 1930s."

Jenner says the challenge is to rebuild the relationship between creators and the public. The latter have an "inexhaustible demand for new content", and creators want to go on writing songs, books and making games....

... the public have to be able to use the content and new technologies without worrying about it. "If I can buy it, I can use it," he says.
From there, though, he goes back to the idea of some sort of blanket license, perhaps via ISPs:
"It seems to me that we should be looking at how we can work as the creative industries with the ISPs and various service providers on how we can work together to generate a flow of income in the future which enables people to get paid for the creations according to how people appreciate those creations."
I'm mostly in agreement with him up until that point, but the details on that point can be pretty important. If it's just creating another middleman or getting in the way of other business models, it can be quite problematic. If, on the other hand, people are paying a subscription fee for some real value add, that actually could work. But it has to be a real positive value add -- and not "the industry won't sue you" (which is a non-negative value add).

To some extent, it appears Jenner recognizes this. Rather than any kind of mandatory licensing fee, he notes that the model of RapidShare (which the recording industry hates) is actually a good model:
"The best thing I've heard about is the whole thing about RapidShare -- people pay for RapidShare, so that seems like a model we can use," he says.
But, of course, that's a totally voluntary payment. Jenner's next statement suggests he's thinking of something more mandatory:
"If we can get £1 a month from every person in this island for music, that would give us £60 million a month," Jenner concludes, suggesting that this would come close to the current value of the industry here in the UK. "It is not a huge challenge."
Actually, if it's voluntary, that is kind of a challenge. That's because, as industry research has shown, 60% of the UK population doesn't spend anything on music. So getting them across the gap from nothing to just £1 is going to be an issue, whether it's voluntary (they just won't do it, since most don't care) or mandatory (they'll be up in arms about being forced to subsidize music they don't want).

So I'm still a little hesitant on that aspect of Jenner's plan, but I believe he and I are getting closer and closer to general agreement, with statements like the following:
"We cannot control the rights of people to copy if they have computers. Copying is with us, let's see how we can be innovative and creative with our business models."
Indeed. Perhaps now we can get Jenner to stop by and expand on his vision, or at least take part in an interview to further discuss this.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Joel (profile), Jul 15th, 2010 @ 9:13am

    Very Bright!

    Peter Jenner has definitely seen the light and understands that even though file sharing can't be stopped it could be used to deter or thwart people from doing it. I like his ideas and don't see how they would be impossible to understand even to the most hard headed high level execs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Jul 15th, 2010 @ 9:24am

    blanket payments

    There are a lot of problems with "blanket payments." In the best of circumstances they tend to be modeled on one moment in time. The CD levy in Canada is a good example. At one point it looked like the main purpose of blank CD's was going to be making copies of commercially produced music CD's. At that point it might have made sense to send the levy for blank CD's to the people who produced commercial CD's. However, the market changed for both music and uses of CD's. Now people are more likely to copy their music to other media, and the people who buy blank CD's are likely to be backing up their hard drives or installing Linux. So now you have a situation where IT folks are paying subscriptions to the music industry. Meanwhile new artists who don't sign with the regular music labels do not get a cut of the CD levy. This makes absolutely no sense from an economic standpoint and creates significant inefficiencies. The people using CD's now have an incentive to use other media which might not be as efficient, and the people who receive the money from the levy perpetuate an old business model. What is worse, a significant part of the levy ends up going toward lobbying to preserve the levy system itself.

     

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  3.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Jul 15th, 2010 @ 9:31am

    you know a drm-free download all you want for a 1$ a month, or even 5$ a month wouldn't be horrible. I would jump on it.

    (and DRM-free is non-negotiable)

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Jul 15th, 2010 @ 9:44am

    Sign me up...

    Where do I sign up to get this guaranteed monthly income. I am sure I can produce something; doesn't really matter if it has value right?

     

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  5.  
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    Dementia (profile), Jul 15th, 2010 @ 9:45am

    Re:

    I can't say that I disagree, the problem would come with setting up the organization to receive and distribute the payments. Especially considering how many start out well intentioned and turn into money hungry RIAA types.

     

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  6.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jul 15th, 2010 @ 9:46am

    Re: blanket payments

    Yep, the reason I can't support a blanket fee is the question of how it would be distributed. If I were to download an album by one of my favourite artists - say, Hybrid (signed to an independent) - or download an album from a new artist I stumbled across, I would want my money to go to them and not Britney or some talentless glorified karaoke singer. However, all existing levies tend to favour existing major label artists and so the majors would get the money even if I personally abhor them and would not download their products.

    This is what needs to be addressed, and I frankly can't see a fair system being set up in the current climate. Therefore, I reject it as being a realistic possibility for now.

     

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  7.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 15th, 2010 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: blanket payments

    Yep, the reason I can't support a blanket fee is the question of how it would be distributed. If I were to download an album by one of my favourite artists - say, Hybrid (signed to an independent) - or download an album from a new artist I stumbled across, I would want my money to go to them and not Britney or some talentless glorified karaoke singer. However, all existing levies tend to favour existing major label artists and so the majors would get the money even if I personally abhor them and would not download their products.

    Not only that, but just the process of figuring out who gets paid would create a middleman that siphons money off the top. It seems very inefficient compared to just letting the artists create models that reach out directly to fans.

     

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  8.  
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    TPBer, Jul 15th, 2010 @ 10:02am

    Not here

    I would never pay for media of any type. If it's on the net it's (the cost of your monthly ISP bill), FREE, unless you feel some sort of obligation, which most do not :)

    PS: On free wifi it's all free

     

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  9.  
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    Bengie, Jul 15th, 2010 @ 10:11am

    Apply this to Steam

    I would love to see something like this for Steam.

    eg, Pay a tier based monthly cost. IE $5 for access to indy style games, $10 for better and $15 for the best.

    But then than $15 gives you access to ALL games and you can play whatever.

    This would be similar to Blizzard charging $15/month for all of their games instead of just WoW. Pay a monthly cost and get access to all games.

    I'm just using $15 since that's what I'm use to for subscription based games.

    Ma'b certain games may have a slight extra premium like +$1/month like large MMORPGs or something where devel is a constant cost.

     

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  10.  
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    Arthur (profile), Jul 15th, 2010 @ 10:19am

    One hurdle

    I do not ever download music or movies. I have never downloaded music or movies. I will never download music or movies.

    I use the Internet a lot but I have no interest in downloading movies or music.

    Any "mandatory licensing" scheme needs to address the millions of people like me who should not pay.

     

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  11.  
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    Modplan (profile), Jul 15th, 2010 @ 10:53am

    Re: Apply this to Steam

    There are already services like this:

    http://www.gametap.com/

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Jul 15th, 2010 @ 11:00am

    Re: One hurdle

    Like you, I don't pirate music, movies, games, software, anything. But I am just waiting for the day for a "license fee" is added to my internet connection, CD/DVDs, etc. Then I will have a "license to steal" with no remorse. If they steal from me, I will steal from them 1000 fold.

     

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  13.  
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    chris (profile), Jul 15th, 2010 @ 11:24am

    Re: One hurdle

    I use the Internet a lot but I have no interest in downloading movies or music.

    that's a lot of porn. aren't you worried about going blind?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    bahahahahaha, Jul 15th, 2010 @ 11:55am

    Re: Re: One hurdle

    i clicked the "funny" button for that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    AO, Jul 15th, 2010 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Sign me up...

    Heh, really. I get the feeling there are some people out there who believe holding a copyright means someone must immediately cut you a check.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Aaron Martin-Colby (profile), Jul 15th, 2010 @ 12:09pm

    Jenner?

    I scanned the headline quickly and read "Bruce Jenner Admits That Stopping File Sharing Is Impossible."

    Wait. What?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    DanVan (profile), Jul 15th, 2010 @ 12:14pm

    It seems impossible to 'stop' people from downloading songs but I am sure there are sensible ways to regulate it and/or get people to legally download songs/cd's.....

    Suing grandmothers and children for millions is not one of them and to THINK that that is a way to move forward....shows the true stupidity of those in the RIAA

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2010 @ 4:33pm

    First they start talking crazy like "blanket licenses" then they start talking more crazy like "we need more deterrence".

    Canada is a good example of that, they already had a blanket license and the industry doesn't feel it is enough now Canadians will have not only to pay the blanket license but be target of some crazy laws that will criminalize everybody for things as simple as backing up their investments in music with a lot of people having something between 10 thousands and 60 thousand dollars worth of material in their collections.

    That is the most horrible idea ever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    John, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 2:01am

    Blanket payment

    We all pay our ISP for Access to the internet, and they charge us a set amount. This is much more than it costs them to provide the service. I also think a flat rate could work but it should come from the money we already pay to the ISP. the Money could then go into a pig pot and be distributed to each of the Agencies RIAA, MFFIA, PRS PPL etc to be distributed to their clients. Very simplistic i know but I am not a Banker or Record Producer, or Lawyer and this is just my personal opinion.some people have suggested a £$5.00 flat rate per month, I am sure we pay our ISP's more than $£5.00 more than they they the Telcos.

     

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  20.  
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    Cameron, Jul 16th, 2010 @ 9:19am

    Levy

    What of PRS's suggestions to charge ISPs a levy based on the quantity of illicit activity taking place?
    Could it work to make up for some of the damage?
    There's more here:
    http://www.themusicvoid.com/2010/07/isp-music-levy-legal-p2p-back-on-royalty-agenda/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Roger Waters, Dec 9th, 2012 @ 9:14pm

    It's been said for years already: use the recordings as advertisments, make your money on tour and through merchandising (you'll still make far more than you deserve doing that alone).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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