Copyright overtaken by technology

Public IP networks and digital technologies that enable the copying and transmission of digitised works of music are a very real threat to the industry's raison d'etre.

The threat to imprison, fine or disconnect those who download music is likely to result in some injustice, and to punish the industry's own consumers, which is not the desired result.

The format has changed, and the record industry no longer owns the format or its means of distribution. Change will not come by punishing the listener, who is also the future market for the product, but by harnessing the format.

Punishing the users

A core assumption of the three strikes and out policy is that an ISP has the storage and processing capacity to analyse and evaluate every transaction according to an arbitrary definition of what might or might not be a legal web page or a legitimate download.

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Peer-to-peer connections may be innocent and travel by proxy - the latest Ubuntu CD, an archive film which is out of copyright, or material under the Creative Commons - and the cost to ISPs will be disproportionate to any return.

The prospective policy is built on speculation about the motives of targeted end users, who will often be teenagers who are innocent of the law and its consequences and parents who don't know what their children are up to.

If the objective is to end illegal downloading, the logical target for preventative measures is not the end user, but the uploaders. Punishing the users is not the way to promote a product.

The real danger to the music industry is not that a student here or a teenager there may download an MP3, at a theoretical cost to the musician or the record labels, but that public IP networks and digital technologies that enable the copying and transmission of digitised works of music are a very real threat to the industry's raison d'etre.

The orchestra in your living room

The music industry of the last 100 years grew out of a technological revolution in the early part of the 20th century when, for the first time, it became possible to reproduce the sound of orchestras in your living room.

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The distribution of music over the airwaves and on vinyl resulted in a better-informed listening public who went out and consumed more music of greater variety than they might have done before. And, of course, bought more records.

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