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Sep 10

Featured Artists Coalition Attacks Mandelson’s Filesharing Plan

Posted on Thursday, September 10, 2009 in civil liberties, News

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The Featured Artists Coalition, which campaigns for the protection of performers’ and musicians’ rights, and for all artists to have more control of their music and a much fairer share of the profits, has spoken out against Peter Mandelson’s proposals to combat internet filesharing:

Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien, a member of the Featured Artists’ Coalition (FAC), said: “It’s going to start a war which they’ll never win.”

The FAC said “heavy-handed” tactics may turn fans away from music for good.

The FAC, a pressure group formed to represent performers, has joined forces with the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and the Music Producers Guild.

In a joint statement, the three bodies of music-makers said they “vehemently oppose” the plans to punish file-sharers.

O’Brien went on to say:

“My generation grew up with the point of view that you pay for your music. Every generation has a different method. File sharing is like a sampler, like taping your mate’s music. You go, ‘I like that, I’ll go and buy the album’. Or, ‘you know what, I’ll go and see them live’. What’s going on is a huge paradigm shift.”

And Fran Healy, lead singer of Travis added:

“I think if you can afford to buy a record then you should buy it. People who hunt down a record and download it for free will probably talk it up. They are the unsung word-of-mouthers who spread the word and create tipping point situations for a greedy record business that has got so fat it is unable to see its own footsoldiers.”

In contrast Geoff Taylor of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has said:

“We could hardly have more legal download services than we already do, and they have not eliminated piracy. It is the peer-to-peer downloading that is holding back investment in more services.

“What Government is proposing in the temporary suspension of accounts as a last resort is a set of measures that are proportional and balanced.”

It’s interesting to see the BPI using the ‘it’s killing investment’ argument, but of course Taylor fails to acknowledge the arguments which O’Brien and Healy put forward, prefering instead to continue to implicitly label filesharing as theft, even though the ‘theft’ (which is almost impossible to quantify) isn’t necessarily from the artists themselves. Considering the market allegedly being adversely affected by illegal downloading is not a free one, where the genuinely best artists out there are dominant and most profitable, it really does make you wonder what the BPI’s motivations are for fighting tooth-and-nail for the most draconian sanctions against illegal filesharing. David Blackburn’s paper on the effects of filesharing on the market as controlled by the music industry suggests:

that it (filesharing) does indeed depress music sales overall. But the effect is not felt evenly. The hits at the top of the charts lose sales, but the niche artists further down the popularity curve actually benefit from file-trading.

For the majority of artists further down the tail, free distribution is good marketing, with a net positive effect on sales. Which is yet another reminder that the rules are all too often made to protect the minority of artists at the top of the curve, not most artists overall.

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