With the passing of the Digital Economy Bill in the UK, many musicians are quite upset -- even though the law is supposed to be about "protecting" them. Musician Steve Lawson, a member of the Musicians Union (which supported the bill), has written a brilliant open letter to the organization
, explaining why he was upset about their position, and considering leaving the group. Here's just a snippet, but the whole thing is worth reading:
The BPI wrote the bill as a protectionist measure of an outdated and unworkable business model. It was a model that was NEVER to the advantage of musicians who cared about the music they played and the culture it existed in, but one that made sense at a time when physical distribution was required to reach anyone, and the costs involved were prohibitively high. At that point, labels lying to musicians about how much they dig the music, while making a fortune for themselves but still never "recouping" on the album was deeply unpalatable but a necessary part of recording and releasing music.
All the costs have dropped. I've written extensively about this -- most notably here -- but nothing has changed in the industry. They still spend money on the behalf of musicians, pay themselves that money, recoup it (AGAIN) and own the product at the end. None of that is remotely to our advantage.
So, the premise of the bill -- that the situation is desperate -- was spurious. The figures quoted for industry 'losses' are insane. Utterly nonsensical if mapped against spending trends on 'physical and download entertainment media' -- we are part of a much bigger entertainment industry now that we ever were, and we don't dominate it in the way we did from 1956 to 1998. Games and DVD are a bigger part of it than ever. And entertainment spending continues to rise. So 200 million hasn't been 'lost', it's being spent elsewhere. Meanwhile, the cost of making and distributing records is tiny, and download sales go up and up.
How you can see that as a situation that needs legislating is utterly beyond me. To shut down sites and services on suspicion of illegal activity is a civil liberties travesty. To have my internet traffic monitored 'in case I do anything bad' is like the royal mail reading my post, in case my letters contain naughty words. While threatening to brick up my front door if they find them, or think they might have found them.
It's great to see musicians realizing that just because the bill's backers claim it's in their interest that this is not necessarily the case -- and that it could very much go against their interests.