You'd think that after years and years of pointless banter along these lines that people in power would understand just how ridiculous
they sound when they try to blame search engines for infringement. TorrentFreak points out
that the UK's Culture Secretary Sajid Javid gave a barn raising speech to folks from the British recording industry
. It starts out with the usual political fluff about just how important the recording industry is and how much money the government is forking over to the industry in questionable subsidies. And, apparently Javid has no qualms directly admitting to accepting favors (bribes?) from the industry
. Specifically he tells a "joke" about now his kids thing he's cool, because he can get hot concert tickets ("my new-found ability to get tickets for the Capital FM Summertime Ball, or Sam Smith at Somerset House!"), whereas in his previous job no one was rushing to give him such favors. It's a joke, but it's pretty telling.
Then, about halfway through, he gets to the meat of the speech, in which Javid talks about the need to (of course) ratchet up copyright laws even more. Because that's the red meat of any speech to the recording industry.
People in your industry have a true vocation.
You identify talented artists and record, release and publicise their work not just to make money, but because you love music.
You have a passion for it.
And intellectual property protection underpins that passion.
It allows you to do what you do best.
Without enforceable copyright there would be no A&R, no recording studios, no producers, no session musicians, no publicity, no artwork.
Now, copyright law absolutely does enable one particular business model
, but to argue that there would be no industry, no producers, no session musicians, no publicity and no artwork without enforceable copyright is just silly. And easily disproved since (1) there was plenty of artwork and music before that (2) there are still plenty of people who produce music without relying on copyright as a business model and (3) "session musicians" tend not have a copyright in the music they play anyway. They get paid session wages. That's not about copyright.
Note how he insists that the recording industry is not in it for the money, but for the "passion." He's pretty sure of this, even though copyright has nothing to do with passion, and everything to do with money. But when it comes to the internet sites he doesn't like, he's absolutely positive the opposite is true:
As I said earlier, you work in music because you love it.
Copyright crooks don’t love music.
They love money, and they’ve been attracted to the industry solely by its potential to make them rich.
Take away their profits and you take away their reason for being.
Interesting. Because most of those sites make almost no money. And, of course, the vast majority of file sharing happens between individuals for no profit at all. Are there some sites making some money from ads? Yes, but it's a tiny amount. And, um, as we've pointed out in the past, if it was such a lucrative business, wouldn't that suggest that the industry players themselves should get into the business and provide a better product?
But, the main point he's making is the favorite trope of the industry: that piracy is really all the big internet companies' fault, and he's demanding that they wave their magic wand, or he'll get legislation passed that forces them to wave their magic wand.
Let me be absolutely clear that I completely agree with Mike Weatherley when he says that the search engines also have to play their part.
They must step up and show willing.
That’s why Vince Cable and I have written to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, asking them to work with you to stop search results sending people to illegal sites.
And let me be perfectly clear: if we don’t see real progress, we will be looking at a legislative approach.
In the words of Martin Mills, “technology companies should be the partners of rights companies, not their masters.”
We wrote about Weatherley's ridiculous comments
earlier this year, but apparently Javid would like to double down on them. Here's the stuff he leaves out: what's an "illegal" site? Who defines what is or is not an illegal site? The legacy entertainment industry once claimed that YouTube is an illegal site. Should Google, Microsoft and Yahoo block all traffic to YouTube? Or what about Veoh, which they also declared to be an illegal site, until it was shut down. Only later did a court rule it to be perfectly legal. Oops. Too late.
What about Soundcloud? Or the Internet Archive? Or Vimeo? All of those were on a list that Universal Music helped create
a few years ago of "illegal sites" on which no advertising could be placed.
So, again, how exactly are they determining what is and what is not an "illegal" site? That seems kind of important, because history shows this industry isn't very good at figuring it out. Remember, this is the same industry that tried to ban the VCR and the MP3 player entirely. I have a real problem with thinking that they're the final judges on what is a "legal" or "illegal" site.
And, of course all of this leaves out that very, very, very little piracy happens because of someone going to a search engine and typing in the name of an artist. We looked at the data
, and there's almost no evidence that search is a major driver of piracy -- especially when it comes to someone looking up an artist's name or songs. In some cases, where people do searches directly related with copyright infringement, it may help them find an unauthorized track, but it's difficult to believe that the person doing such a search is looking for a way to pay in the first place.
In other words, it's pretty ridiculous to blame search engines for helping people find what they're looking for. The real problem is that the industry hasn't
been giving people what they're looking for. Trying to ban search engines from actually helping people isn't exactly a reasonable solution. It's a bad idea that won't work.
The rest of his speech is the usual misleading stats and ridiculous assumptions. He talks about how many unauthorized downloads there are, never bothering to consider how many of those would actually involve payment -- or how many of those might be happening because there aren't useful, cheap and convenient alternatives. It's just all "piracy." He talks about how they're throwing millions at an "education" campaign. This is the old trope that comes up over and over again. "If only," people think, "everyone learned about copyrights, they'd stop infringing." Yeah, right. It's never worked. People don't download unauthorized tracks because they don't know about copyright law. They know. Education is a waste of money -- and nearly all educational campaigns are so laughable that the people they're directed at just laugh at them (often because they actually understand the issues better).
If, as Javid claims, music really "matters" to the UK then creating a bogus "war" with the tech industry (the industry that is actually delivering real solutions) seems like the exact wrong way about helping out. It's just extending the bogus narrative that the recording industry should sit back and let the government and other industries "solve" their failure to adapt to a changing marketplace in which music lovers want a better product.