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Could Pink Floyd Legal Win Set Online Downloads Sale Precedent

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Pink Floyd have always done things differently (and rocked my world), but now the bands' high court victory could see the online music industry work very differently too...

The core of Pink Floyd's argument is that it signed a deal with record company EMI to sell their albums, not to make individual tracks available without its permission. This is the agreement the pair signed over 10 years ago relating to CDs and Pink Floyd said it should stand true for today's online downloads as well as physical media. The judge agreed.

"{EMI is} not entitled to exploit recording by online distribution or by any other means other than the original album, without the consent of Pink Floyd," said the ruling. Pink Floyd is consequently seeking £10m in unpaid royalties.

So what is the fall-out? At this stage it is hard to know for sure since this trial was somewhat unique. Firstly it took place behind closed doors, so we don't know the full details on who was awarded what. Secondly Pink Floyd had a specific clause in their record deal to "preserve the artistic integrity of the albums". And thirdly, musically Pink Floyd differs from the norm by producing many "seamless" albums where tracks follow without interruption from one to another. Indeed very few singles were ever released by the band during its epic and sprawling career, though its decision to release 'Echoes' - a best of - in 2001 somewhat undermines this argument!

Limitations? a) not many bands are working off 10+ year old deals that don't account for digital distribution, b) not many bands would want to deliberately limit potential sales by ceasing individual track downloads and c) no-one can make music like Pink Floyd (though Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Rós and a few others give it a decent go).

Adding a further twist, EMI has issued a formal statement which appears to completely contradict the court's ruling stating: "Today's judgment does not require EMI to cease making Pink Floyd's catalogue available as single track downloads, and EMI continues to sell Pink Floyd's music digitally and in other formats."

We'll await additional clarification on all this, but what it may do is serve notice to artists that album-only sales restrictions can be fought for and won if that is something key to their artistic beliefs. Me, I don't care either way. The option to buy individual tracks provides choice, but I only buy complete albums, can't stand compilations and I think the shuffle button was invented by the Devil so feel free to fight amongst yourselves...

Link:
via BBC News
Pink Floyd Official Homepage

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