Lily Allen’s shrill and ultimately hypocritical argument that filesharing causes blanket damage to musicians, and that Peter Mandelson’s threat to throw users off the internet is a valid one, is masking the true problem here. Doctorow suggests:
Copyright is problematic for everyone: musicians, fans, bloggers. The absence of clear affirmative rights to make personal copies, to share with your friends, to copy for the purposes of discussion and commentary (as opposed to the fuzzy and difficult-to-interpret fair use guidelines, which have been further confused by the entertainment industry’s bold attempts to convince us all that they don’t matter and can’t be relied upon) means that we’re all in a state of constant infringement.
A law that no one understands and no one abides by is no law at all. Parts of copyright — the right to regulate how commercial licenses with industrial entities work — are really important to me and to all working artists. But if we continue to try to expand copyright to cover everything, every interaction that involves a copy (which is every interaction these days), then the broad consensus that copyright is nonsense will continue to grow, and we’ll lose the good stuff as well as the ridiculous stuff.
He has a good point. The precursor blog to this site was once set upon by a newspaper journalist whose (uncredited) piece I used (and fully linked to/did not take credit for) to illustrate the impact of an entirely unrelated story. Was I breaching copyright? I don’t think so – he was of an entirely different opinion though. The issue at hand in this debate about filesharing is surely about copyright reform – addressing the enormous gap between creators and rights holders. I’ll see if I can nudge The Secret Musician into posting their opinions about that! Why though has the Featured Artists Coalition moved closer to Allen/John/Barlow/Blunt et al’s argument?
We the undersigned wish to express our support for Lily Allen in her campaign to alert music lovers to the threat that illegal downloading presents to our industry and to condemn the vitriol that has been directed at her in recent days.
Our meeting also voted overwhelmingly to support a three-strike sanction on those who persistently download illegal files, sanctions to consist of a warning letter, a stronger warning letter and a final sanction of the restriction of the infringer’s bandwidth to a level which would render file-sharing of media files impractical while leaving basic email and web access functional.
Weird. The difference between that and Mandelson’s position is marginal, and it’s not what they were arguing at the beginning of the month.
edit: I’ve just seen this story. Fascinating, and it blurs the issue even further. Why would the FAC have a different position to Allen one day, then “cheer her” as she entered their meeting last night? Intriguing that she should be there, even more curious that what appears to be a massive compromise (read Ed O’Brien’s comments) should be in her favour…