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Open Shop

Andy Vandervell

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A couple of recent stories have resurrected an oft discussed topic: music piracy. First was the news that the latest album from the artist formerly known as 'The Artist' and now known as Prince, was being distributed for free as a cover disk on the The Mail on Sunday. This put a number of noses out of joint, with retailers and record labels alike complaining that this move undermined the status of the music album, making it little more than a cheap commodity. Unsurprisingly, it was a great fillip for the prospective music downloader; if it was distributed for free why should I pay for it?

On a similar note, Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the RIAA, said in an interview with TG Daily that the organisation's much publicised legal crusade had generated "more heat, friction, and headlines", adding that:

“What is the most important anti-piracy strategy is aggressive licensing and offering great legal alternatives. That is what our member companies obviously do and our job is to complement that, which is the most important thing to do to win over fans.”

Winning over fans is certainly a must, and little that either the RIAA or its member companies has done so far has achieved this. If anything music fans have become more disillusioned and frustrated with the industry as time has gone by, and the longer this situation lasts the less likely those fans are to embrace any future solutions put forward.

These sentiments were backed up by John Palfrey, a clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School who felt that litigation had had very little impact on piracy in the United States. More pointedly, he added that it the RIAA's pre-occupation with litigation was a signal that the industry was "out of step" with the present and future; serving as little more than a distraction from finding a way forward.

Indeed, 'finding a way forward' has long been a challenge for the industry as it has become abundantly clear it's incapable of doing this – or simply doesn't want to. So CD sales are decreasing? Why? Because people don't want them anymore; the iPod and any number of competing players have given consumers the taste for having their music with them all the time, thus making buying CDs a false economy. How often to you see people carrying portable CD players these days?

For sure, there's an argument to be had that people still want physical copies, but I for one have no such attachment. Like many, my CD collection has been long been consigned to a large CD carrier and over a Christmas break two years ago I went through the arduous task of ripping them all to my PC. Needless to say I haven't looked back, and have no intention in doing so.

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