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 internet can be seen as an opportunity, not a threat. The revolution offered by the internet is as profound as the invention of the phonograph, and can expand the potential for both the musician and the audience, just as the phonograph transformed the possibilities for music in an earlier age.

The problem is that this revolution owes little or nothing to the music industry or its formats.

Kris 'Thrash' Weston, formerly of the techno band The Orb, takes a the view that: "God sent P2P to deliver us from the banality of what has been stuffed down our throats through the one medium which can't be controlled."

The medium appeals to some artists precisely because it offers direct communication with the audience, and a means of sidestepping the middleman and the record company.

One view is that the new technologies are redefining the possibilities for information exchange and the dissemination of ideas, and how we respond to them.

Copyright law in the western world followed the invention of the printing press to protect the rights of the original creator. The music industry followed the invention of the phonograph, and copyright law was adapted to protect the physical representation of a musical performance.

The challenge of the future is to find a model for music that makes the most of the technology of the moment.

Home recording is a fraction of the cost of the professional studios of the past. The internet is the distribution and the medium, and to publish a document or a piece of music on the web costs very little.

Billy Bragg suggests: "The way that the music industry has done it so far is to go after the users. I prefer a different model. Users don't pay for radio."

He continues: "But that doesn't mean it's not being paid for. The business is paying because it uses the songs to attract advertising, and it pays some of the advertising revenue to the content providers. Rather than trying to criminalise their audiences, we should be looking at the business models that use music to attract advertisers and build community."

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