Tuesday 12 February 2008

Don't Take Away The Music

Maybe in my entry last month about the proposed Australian internet censorship, when I asked why they don't go the whole hog and ban file sharing, I should have taken heed of the cliche: "Careful what you wish for, you might just get it" ... I see the UK government are planning to throw P2P file sharers off our internet connections (BBC News: Illegal downloaders 'face UK ban').

This is scary for a number of reasons (I'll exercise my right to silence on the main one, LOL). For one, will they end up cutting off the internet connections of people whose podcasts or streamed internet broadcasts use copyrighted records? This would be censorship on a par with the Marine Offences Act of 1967, and a diabolical erosion of free speech :-(

For another, how will the ISP know if we are sharing copyrighted material unless they start monitoring our internet usage? Seems like an invasion of privacy which may affect all internet users, not just file sharers.

As for file sharing itself, it seems to me the capitalist record companies are looking for a scapegoat for their falling profits. There's nothing new about the Peer 2 Peer moral panic; back in the 1980's and early 1990's it was home taping that was "killing music", even as the record companies were exploiting their artists. Perhaps the epitome of this exploitation was the Bluebells; it was reported at the time when their "Young At Heart" record re-entered the charts in the early 90s, they never saw a penny for their Top 10 re-entry because of a clause in their contract. (Even though I personally can't stand the record, I like even less the way the Bluebells were treated!)

In fact, some amount of file sharing can actually help the artists in that it helps promote the bands and their music. A bit like the playing of their records on the radio; some bands actually used to pay to have their records playlisted by radio stations (pirate as well as legal) because of the increased sales of the records and interest in the bands' live performances etc. Fast forward to the late 1990's, some bands (notably Rage Against The Machine) supported Napster when it was under fire from the record companies and the capitalist Establishment, and said they were happy to have their songs shared online.

And it says it all when the government are siding with the record companies, against working people who - unlike government ministers - can't really afford the cost of CDs these days. (Although, considering the government's track record with CD's, they probably keep losing them LOL).

Ah well, I remember in 1997 when New Labour's anthem was D-Ream "Things Can Only Get Better". Considering their track record since, can I suggest a new anthem for them? How about Edwin Starr "It Ain't Fair" :-P

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