Can You Support An Entire Recording Industry By Shaking Down Music Fans?
from the that's-the-plan-in-germany dept
Rights holders have long pursued countless German file sharers with legal means, often going after tens of thousands of users at a time. Initially, this was done through ordinary lawsuits, but revisions to local copyright law now make it possible to simply get court approval for requests to ISPs to unveil a subscriber's identity. Content owners then send threatening letters to alleged infringers, asking them to pay anywhere between €300 to €1200 ($430 to $1720 USD) per unlawfully-shared file.Basically, this is like ACS:Law or US Copyright Group on a much larger scale -- without ever involving any actual proof or conviction. Apparently, the rights holders in Germany are thrilled with this situation, since it's making them a lot of money. But, can it really last? This entire "business model" appears to be based on the idea of shaking down your biggest fans, and making them hate you for it. It's hard to see how that's a "growth" model, and the inevitable backlash is going to be fierce.
Last year, when I was in Berlin for Berlin Music Week and various associated events like All2getherNow and Popkomm, one thing that struck me was how industry-centric the German music world is -- and how the artists themselves are feeling stifled. It amazed me how many German musicians told me of how ridiculous it was that they weren't allowed to offer up their own music for free on their own websites, thanks to the rules that collective licensing agency GEMA setup. A few even showed me their official websites, with no music, and their "unofficial" websites, which had streams and downloads, which they couldn't admit to without running into trouble from GEMA.
This is what the recording industry is driving for elsewhere. A scenario where the only beneficiaries are the gatekeepers, and the consumers and the artists themselves are made to feel like interlopers. It may work for a short period of time, but I have trouble believing that such models are sustainable at all, in the long term. We're seeing more and more success stories from artists and forward-thinking labels who are happy to embrace what the technology allows and embrace what fans want. It seems like a bad idea for the entire German industry to be moving in the exact opposite direction.