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Copyright Business

The other side of the copyright story - the so-called 'new business models' - receives far less attention at a policy level than the enforcement measures. The industry lobbying is overweight with recommendations for way s that governments can impose restrictions in order to protect copyright material. Conversely, the debate is less about how changing a business model can overcome the issues around the online dissemination of infringing content.

This issue has, of course, moved on a lot since I began this blog in 2008. Streaming has become the music industry's favoured business model, and streaming services like Spotify have blossomed. This has shifted the landscape. However, it is historically true that each time a new technology appears, the industries that have vested interests in copyright, increase the intensity of their lobbying. It is important for those engaged in copyright policy, to keep an eye on new developments and understand their implications and the opportunities for new ways to structure the entertainment and music businesses.

In this section, I have been logging information about the business of copyright. The idea is to begin to get a feel for the financial issues of the copyright industries and how to link them to policy decisions. Thus, it may seem a bit disjointed and sketchy, but it may provide threads for further investigation and to see where it leads. My feeling is that what policy-makers should not be asking is 'how big a problem is the downloading of copyrighted content?' but rather, 'what are the real problems in the copyright business?'. and not 'how can we protect copyrights?' but rather 'how can we achieve revenues for the copyright industries in the online environment?'

'Long Tail' author Chris Anderson, and Duke University law professor James Boyle, discussed the economics of 'free' and the merits of the Creative Commons, in a BBC Radio programme yesterday evening. But to find out why the headline, I'm afraid you'll have to read the whole article.

Anderson, who uncovered how digital economics means that selling a large catalogue of niche products in small volumes can be profitable, has a new theory. That businesses can give up to 90 per cent of their products and services away free, and still make a profit.

Taken at face value, Anderson's theory will cause apoplexies among music and entertainment industry executives. But when you think about what he says more carefully, he is

Read more: Lamp oil makers to veto electric light?

A report from the management consultancy firm Booz and Company says that the losses to the telecoms industry from a 3 strikes / graduated response measures, would be much higher than any potential gains to the music industry.

The report, entitled Digital Confidence, securing the next wave of digital growth, carries out a calculation for a hypothetical scenario of terminating internet access to persistent filesharers in the UK (I stress it is a hypothetical scenario, because the UK government has not said it has plans to implement the 3rd strike - termination of access).

The report says:

"One aspect often overlooked in public discussions on the merits of "three strikes" is the damage to the overall digital economy as the result of disconnecting significant numbers of users from the Internet. Implications of "three strikes" would need to be understood more holistically. A high-level sensitivity calculation, for the

Read more: The economic damage of 3 strikes

Brian Eno, the British musician who came to fame with the 1970s rock band Roxy Music, has accused the music industry of being 'lazy' in respect of the Internet, and still hanging on to old ways of doing things instead of moving forwards. Speaking on the Today Programme on the BBC's Radio 4, he also said that young musicians understand perfectly how to use Internet-based services to promote their music and are comfortable with doing so.

I put these comments here simply because policy-makers are frequently proffered elderly musicians who plead that the Internet is ruining their careers and reducing their royalties on which they depend for a pension. Those who are getting on with it and adapting their ways, are unheard at a political level - but they are the ones whose voice should be heard.

Mr Eno is a highly-respected music industry insider - and considered by many to be an 'elder' of the rock music industry - who is speaking out. He is also putting his money where his mouth is and releasing his new music on the Internet first - before putting out a CD.

His comments also illustrate how the music industry is divided between those who welcome the Internet and the opportunities it brings, and those who still seek to protect their 20th century business models. It is also important for policy-makers to recognise this division, and seek to create policies that help the industry as a whole to move forward.


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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor, with expertise in online safety, technology and human rights. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.  

The politics of copyright

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