CEO Of UK Collection Society: We Don't Want Gov't Handouts, But The Gov't Must Give Us Everything We Ask For!

from the promotional-value dept

Well, this is nice. Fran Nevrkla, the CEO of PPL, the collection society for performance rights in the UK, recently gave a talk that shows the ridiculous extremes with which some folks in this industry view the very consumers they’re failing to serve. Last we checked in on PPL, it was trying to shake down charities for more money and had lost a massive ruling that said it had greatly overcharged multiple venues and owed them refunds. Towards the end of the talk, Nevrkla claims that he’s disappointed that capital punishment for file sharing isn’t available. Obviously, this is a joke — but it does show how these people think:

Thank you, David, and thank you for putting some of those pirates behind bars. I know that regrettably capital punishment was abolished in this country some 50 years ago, sad it is, but a few years in jail is probably pretty OK…

This particular quote was highlighted on Boing Boing, and gets most of the attention, but it is really just a joke (we hope). What I think is a lot more worrisome is much of what he said, which is blatantly false and misleading, in the rest of his talk. It starts with this tidbit (also in the BoingBoing post):

To the industry I would say, we would be well advised to delete two or three words from our vocabulary entirely and they are ‘promotion’ and ‘promotional value’. There is no such thing in the 21st Century. There is usage, there are benefits, hopefully often, if not always to both sides but there is no favour in it and no indulgence and no promotion.

That’s early in the presentation, but he digs in deeper later on:

The only thing I would say (to broadcasters) is ‘please, stop all that stuff about “promotion.”‘ It really becomes incredibly tiresome and it’s grossly overused and it’s very old fashioned. It should have no place in the modern era.

Yes, please. Let’s ignore the facts of what’s happening in the market, because it goes against our business model. There absolutely is promotion and promotional value. In fact, many musicians have not just recognized this, but have embraced it. The problem, of course, is that PPL’s entire setup is based on there being no promotional value of music. So it has to lie and tell people and itself that there’s no such thing, despite mounds of evidence to the contrary. To then claim being factual is tiresome and “old fashioned” isn’t just wrong, but insulting to people who actually understand the facts of the situation.

There’s also the fun part where he rails against “free”:

Now, whether it is the copyright tribunal or society in general, is it now guided by this foolish and, to me, entirely bogus concept of “for free.” And, frankly, the music industry is no different than any other business or industry or service. Sir Terry Leahy, the phenomenally successful businessman, business leader and entrepreneur, would see his business in ruins after six weeks as would Lord Sainsbury, Lord Sugar and many others, if they were having to compete with free next door or across the road.

Of course, his examples are folks dealing in physical, tangible goods. Leahy and Sainsbury (if I’m getting the people right) both built up supermarket/grocery store-type businesses. Those are businesses that have always had to compete with others at near marginal cost, because they sell commodities. They were not given gov’t monopolies, or had a gov’t “tribunal” setting an artificially high price, which PPL enjoys.

And, it seems worth pointing out that PPL appears to have put this particular video out for free, as an attempt to promote its own services. But, I thought that there was no such thing as “for free” or “promotional value.” Except, of course, when PPL does it for itself? Hypocrites.

Now, with no hostility, but with a touch of sadness, regret and frankly astonishment, I ponder, about the pronouncements of some — perhaps a small minority — of academics and various other thinkers and all the digital freedom fighters in terms of their arrogance, hostility — usually deliberate — and frankly, gross ignorance and naivete.

Um. Wait, you’re the guy supporting sending people to jail for “free” and falsely claiming there’s no promotional value to music and no legitimate concept of “free.” And you blame others? From there he mocks the National Association of Broadcasters for being against the Performance Rights Act, while using copyright itself — not realizing that just being against a performance tax is not the same thing as being against copyright. This guy basically seems to not actually be honest in his responses to anything.

Now, why is copyright so fundamental to performers and record companies? It should be obvious. It’s the bedrock of creativity, because it is a property right. Please, don’t listen to the demagogues among the digerati who, in a completely false way, try to present copyright as a monopoly right. A nonsense. Every intelligent person and a real legal person will tell you that it is a property right.

I’m sorry, but he’s lying. Flat out lying. Plenty of very smart “real legal” persons will tell you that it’s a monopoly right — including numerous copyright experts and legal scholars. I recognize that Mr. Nevrkla might not like this fact, and that it contradicts with the way he tries to run his business, but he can’t deny reality just because he doesn’t like it.

Next up, he goes on to talk about the 300th anniversary of the Statue of Anne, and reads a selected quote from Daniel Defoe, often credited as being one of the first to use the term “pirates” to describe publishers who reprinted his poems without authorization. Not surprisingly, Nevrkla leaves out many of the important details of that story, including Defoe’s statement that he actually had no problem with publishers reprinting his work and even selling it for money, as long as they “print it true according to the copy.” That is, Defoe’s real worry wasn’t that it was taking money from him, but that people were making copies that were not accurate. In fact, Dafoe then figured out how to use the “pirate” copies to his own advantage. He used the widespread copies of his work to build up his own reputation and name recognition, allowing him to make significantly more money on commissions for future works. Dafoe is, in fact, one of the earliest examples of a smart content creator who did not need copyright, and actually learned to use the lack of copyright to his advantage.

Why do you think Nevrkla would leave all that out?

Nevrkla then goes on to whine and complain about governments not just rolling over and forcing everyone to give him more money. He does this with a straight face.

Now, not only are we desperately short on the copyright protection for sound recordings. Frankly, we are short on the basic PPL public performance rights environment. Several successive governments have failed us to introduce legislation which actually is a mirror image of European law. And we have done something about it. We have taken legal action and will pursue it until we get the right and just result.

Ah, the “right and just” result is to tax all music so PPL gets paid. Even if it harms musicians and the public. This is not the “right and just” result. It’s the one that most benefits PPL and Nevrkla. Then he complains that most musicians don’t make enough money, saying that they should have “the right to proper working conditions” which seems to involve extortionary powers on the part of PPL. Of course, he ignores that the greater fees PPL gets to charge, the fewer venues are willing to play music and the more harm done by PPL. He also ignores the fact that part of the reason so many musicians make so little money is because the way PPL is structured, where it often samples performances, such that larger artists get their songs noted as being performed, but smaller artists may get skipped over entirely. The problem isn’t copyright. The problem is PPL.

Nevrkla then starts talking about copyright extension for performance rights, with a story that is almost certainly made up:

It has been said to my face several times, usually out of frustration when these people run out of arguments. So, when musicians get to their old age, can no longer play and exercise their profession, and are losing all their copyrights, just as they get old and infirm and ill. And you know what the answer is? “Let them sell more t-shirts.”

He’s being misleading here as well. I’m curious, when he’s old and no longer working for PPL, if he thinks that PPL should keep paying him for the work he did in the past? He’s making the false argument that copyright is a welfare system for musicians. It’s not. When people get old and retire, they’re supposed to have saved up money from back when they were working. And no one is actually saying “sell t-shirts” to make money in their old age. They’re saying they should have a decent business model and not expect the gov’t to tax everyone just because they did not have a good business model. That these musicians might not have done so is tragic, but is no excuse for copyright extension. And, of course, Nevrkla leaves out that studies have shown extension of performance rights go almost universally to the record labels, not to the musicians. He mentions session players and the like, but most of them were work for hire situations, who got paid for their time and that was it. They’re not getting royalties anyway. If he wants to help them, perhaps he should fix that, not lie to everyone about what’s actually happening.

Record companies need to make money. Let’s not get deceived by some of that PC nonsense out there. It is not a crime in the United Kingdom in the year 2010 to make money and make a profit. That profit is not eaten by someone. It is plowed back into the business into new talent and new music. And I am delighted to say that as an industry, we have always been proud, self-reliant, successful industry which also enhances Britain’s standing in the world.

Wait, what? Just a couple minutes earlier you were whining about how governments aren’t giving you enough money, and now you claim you’re self-reliant? I do not think that word means what you think it means. It’s really quite incredible how he spends so much time demanding more privileges from the government, trashes the copyright tribunal for telling him he’s charged too much, and then pretends they’re some sort of “self-reliant” business that has any actual business sense. His entire revenue base is from the government forcing people to give him money. He doesn’t have to convince anyone to buy, the gov’t forces them to. Sickening. And it gets worse:

Now we are not, and I hope we never will, ask for subsidies or state handouts…. And please, let’s not go down that way.

Uh, but you are. And have been, and continue to do so, and then when you don’t get them you complain that it’s not “just” and mock people who suggest you should have a better business model. Stunning cognitive dissonance.

But what we must demand is proper valuation of music and proper commercial valuation of the underlying rights in music. We cannot do DIY in copyright. For that we need the gov’t, the civil service, the UK IPO, and other authorities in Brussels. And it is their responsibility at the end of the day to do the right thing, finally, by our community too.

Uh, wait. You just said you weren’t asking for a government handout, and then immediately turn around and ask for exactly that, claiming that the government must give you a hand out and a subsidy. Your rhetorical trick is to claim that this “handout” is “proper valuation.” It’s not. Copyright is a subsidy. It’s a purposeful breaking of the free market, in order to allow PPL to charge a higher than market price. It’s not a “proper” valuation. It’s a monopoly valuation.

To all those clever, smart, smug, cynical thinkers and others: HANDS OFF OUR COPYRIGHT. Hands off our employment opportunities, our income streams, our livelihoods and our future.

Um, ok. How about hands off our privacy. Our culture. Our ability to share and communicate and to express ourselves? Hands off our wallets (via the government). Hands off our ability to use new and smarter business models.

From there, Nevrkla goes into his “thank yous,” naming lots of organizations and people who we normally see in these pages for trying to take away consumer rights and force the government to provide greater monopoly rights and subsidies. That’s where the “capital punishment” joke comes in.

Overall, however, the speech is stunning in its blatant dishonesty and cognitive dissonance, railing against gov’t hand outs while not asking for them, but demanding them, as the only “just” way. The capital punishment statement is ridiculous, but at least we think he was joking. The rest of the speech is just dishonest and misleading — and, for that reason, is much more worrisome.

If you want to be frustrated by this ridiculousness, you can watch the whole thing (for free, for the “promotional value” of it), below:

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Comments on “CEO Of UK Collection Society: We Don't Want Gov't Handouts, But The Gov't Must Give Us Everything We Ask For!”

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Hephaestus (profile) says:

“Nevrkla claims that he’s disappointed that capital punishment for file sharing isn’t available. “

From a Psyche Perspective … This guy must be on the verge of a mental break down. He is rationalizing everything and becoming increasingly disconnected from reality.

My favorite comment from Boing Boing is

“like the nightmare come true. hes a dinosaur from yesteryear come to haunt us with his demented struggle to cherish his failing business model.”

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ah, the “insightful” comments we’ve come to expect from this AC. Mike writes a long, heartfelt and interesting post, carefully dissecting the claims and comments made from somebody high in the music industry and thereby exposing the dangerous mindset and counter-productive ideas within.

In response, you write a single sentence that says exactly the opposite of what you think it says (i.e. that Mike doesn’t agree with Nevrkla is *exactly* what Mike’s article says, not the opposite as you seem to believe). As for the “free mentality”, it’s been explained to you many times why this is incorrect, but feel free to stop posting on this free forum if you so strongly believe that everything should be paid for. There’s a paywall somewhere you can sign up for and stop the rest of us from reading your drivel.

Shadow Six (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ehhhh, don’t say that! The only reason I read the comments is because of the amusingness of the anti-logic that the dogmatic industry meeme machines have to say. They just say the same things over and over again.. they make no points or even attempt to make any sense. They just make the repetitive assertion that everyone that reads this blog is a pirate or in favor of piracy. Not that they really think that, but they’re paid to be unethical scoundrels, and to persecute the majority of the population with a seriously flawed self righteousnesses that can only be expressed in copy paste logic.

@Tam(s), Keep up the good work!
— Shadows @ Six,

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Meh, I try to counteract the posts here sometimes, if only because someone a little less familiar with these tactics might actually believe them. Sadly, I do think that some of these people do believe what they’re typing.

However, I do enjoy the irony of people railing against “freeloaders” on a free blog that doesn’t even require you to register a name.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I love it when Mike rips into people. I would LOVE to see a live debate between Mike and anyone of the guys he shreds.

Heh. As I’ve said before, any time, any place, I’d debate most of these guys. It’s as if they’ve never had anyone challenge one of their bogus points.

I tried to get a debate together with one patent system defender, and he chickened out and started calling me names. So that failed.

I have been on panels with some people, and those have been fun, but no straight up debate.

One of these days.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Fun using Fran's words as a rebuttal....

FTA: “Now, not only are we desperately short on the copyright protection for sound recordings. Frankly, we are short on the basic PPL public performance rights environment.”

From 2006 on IFPI’s website: “I am very proud to be able to say, on behalf of all my colleagues at PPL, that in 2006, not only did we generate record revenues in terms of airplay royalties, but we have also delivered the major reshaping of PPL to which you agreed last year.”

Er, okay. So you don’t have enough copyright protection, yet you’re generating record revenues in the past few years?

FTA: “We would be well advised to delete two or three words from our vocabulary entirely and they are ‘promotion’ and ‘promotional value’. There is no such thing in the 21st Century.”

From 2006 on IFPI’s website: “A fast growing number of businesses throughout the world is aware of the power of music in advertising, selling and PROMOTING their products and services and in expanding their businesses, increasing their profits and enhancing their working and business environment.” (Emphasis added)

There is no such thing as promotion, except when there’s promotion. Awesome….

FTA: “Several successive governments have failed us to introduce legislation which actually is a mirror image of European law. And we have done something about it. We have taken legal action and will pursue it until we get the right and just result.”

From 2006 on IFPI’s website: “…the philosopher Plato put it most beautifully when he said “If I can write the songs of the nations, I don’t care who writes the laws.”

Lawmakers have failed us! Not that I really know, because I don’t care who writes the laws….

DH's love child says:

Re: Fun using Fran's words as a rebuttal....

“From 2006 on IFPI’s website: “…the philosopher Plato put it most beautifully when he said “If I can write the songs of the nations, I don’t care who writes the laws.”

Lawmakers have failed us! Not that I really know, because I don’t care who writes the laws….”

With apologies to Barry Manilow (or Marty Panzer, or whoever penned this classic):

Franny wants to write the laws to make the whole world sing – so he can get paid.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I see what you did there! Well done.

And a side note: Mike, this guy is so far disassociated from reality that he probably really believes his own babble. I learned long ago that you just can’t argue with crazy.

Sane people are automatically at a disadvantage because they have a strong tendency to attempt to stick with logic and facts.

out_of_the_blue says:

"regrettably capital punishment was abolished"

Don’t gloss over this: it’s merely the truth. The Rich are without conscience or empathy, it’s what allows them to TAKE far more than reasonable reward for efforts. And “efforts” don’t even apply here, it’s sheer grab for money with a monopoly granted by the state. The whole of society is being distorted into money machines, and not even mainly for those who supply necessaries, but for those who supply mere entertainment.

Rest of article is nearly irrelevant.

Clark Sorley (user link) says:


I earn my living from making music recordings and have done so for over thirty years as producer, musician and songwriter. The amounts that have come down to me through the collection societies wouldn’t pay for shoe laces. Copyrights only ever served a tiny minority of the privileged.

PPL is part of a tradition, a hundred year-old tradition that is on the way out. It wasn’t all bad but it has had its day. Nevrkla seems oblivious and talks like a deluded general thinking victory is nigh when the opposing forces are at the city gates.

I agree with all Mike’s retorts.

kameraadpjotr (profile) says:

Capital Punishment

Perhaps we should “invent” (the same way they “invented”) a new crime: A crime against our freedoms. As this would be an offence even more serious than “piracy”, a even harsher punishment should be applied, in line with the glorious European revolutionary tradition when the citizens saw their rights violated. “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.”

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