Sunday, 14 June 2009
Fishing for digital undercurrents
The Saturday Times (13 June) is home to an interview with UK Music boss Fergal Sharkey and whilst the piece does contain a LOT of detail about Feargal's hobby of fly fishing, which had little interest for me (although I did once try to obtain some feathers from one of my particularly obnoxious cockerels, Bane, for some lures), it does contains some clues about how the UK music industry is hoping it can co-operate with the Government and Internet Service Providers in the future.
Feargal says that over the next weeks there will be some “incredibly exciting announcements” coming from individual ISPs and record labels - and also alludes to some new developments for the music industry from the Government's Digital Britain report, due out next Tuesday. The details are unclear about the new deal with ISPs, but it seems they will involve bundling music subscriptions into the cost of broadband - potentially customers could get unlimited music by paying slightly more to their ISP than for a normal internet connection. Once that happens, Feargal says he hopes that the need for illegal downloading will disappear. “Research shows that 80 per cent of 14 to 24-year-old UK filesharers would pay for a legal service,” he says. “Quite clearly, this is the direction we need to be heading.” With the IFPI saying that just one in twenty downloads is legal, Feargal says that music piracy represents a “mortal threat” to the industry, he says. It is estimated that the UK sector lost £180 million to online piracy in 2008 alone. “The next 12 months is going to be a crucial time in determining whether we have much of a music industry left in five years' time,” Feargal says. “That's where we are. Quite clearly we need something to be done very quickly otherwise we might not have much of an industry left.”
Alexi Mostrous's article reports that Feargal favours a three-pronged attack on piracy. Firstly, a new range of music services offered by ISPs and others. Secondly an educational campaign, like Respect the Value of Music, which aims to teach young people about copyright and, finally, an arrangement with the ISPs to write warning letters to those suspected of piracy. Interestingly Feargal says in the article that whilst he doesn't want to pre-empt Digital Britain, he disagrees with the recommendation made in the initial report that the industry should be able totake legal action persistent offenders saying “We have made it clear that we have no ambition to relive the past,” he says, referring to the period from 2000 to 2003 where international music companies launched lawsuits against thousands of teenagers. “It's frustrating that people think all the music industry wants to do is disconnect people”. With a new Pirate Party MEP in the European Parliament, the rather messy hiatus in the passing of Frabce's 'three strikes' law and the Joel Tenenbaum and Jamie Thomas cases continuing to attact negative publicity for the Recording Industry Association of America, I would have thought this is a wise comment indeed!
Feargal is no doubt that the next six months will be crucial. “If we don't have help from the Government and the ISPs the next few years could be desperately bleak,” he says. “We're playing with a very considerable number of British jobs. There are people at a very senior level who are deeply, deeply concerned.
You can read the interview in full, and catch up on the exciting world of fly fishing at