Thursday, September 06, 2007

Some snippets on file-sharing news

I haven't written about the music industry and file-sharing for a while, so this is a good time to catch up on some news.

Apple's iTunes continues to be the biggest on-line seller of music around, and Apple still refuses to licence their Digital Restrictions Management software to other companies. Nevertheless, one company has found a way to compete with Apple, and has been rewarded by becoming the second-biggest seller of music on-line: eMusic sells mp3s without DRM software. The big labels are reluctant to compete with Apple by offering unencumbered music, so eMusic concentrates on the indie and over-25s markets, and with five million sales a month, it is extremely profitable for them and the bands.

Faced with interoperability problems and consumer surveys that show that UK consumers believe that only DRM-free music is worth paying for, the music labels are rethinking their approach. EMI already sells DRM-free music on iTunes; Universal is about to offer DRM-free music (but not on iTunes); and the CTO of label Gracenote is predicting that the major labels are likely to drop DRM for downloads within six months.

Meanwhile, the RIAA's battle against file-sharing isn't going well. One cleared defendant has been awarded $68,000 to cover her legal fees; another cleared defendant has launched a class-action suit against the RIAA for malicious prosecution; and another defendant has had the lawsuit against her dismissed with prejudice.

File-sharing is, essentially, normal, in the same way that taping music off the radio or TV shows off the telly are. Even the children of Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman turn to the file-sharing networks to discover new music. The tide has turned, and we're far better off reforming copyright law to make sure artists remain compensated than we are trying to enforce out-dated laws.

Attempts to shut down torrent-tracking sites still fail; the Pirate Bay has just re-launched with a taunting message to the executives who tried to shut them down:

"Finally, some words for non-internet loving companies: This is how it works. Whatever you sink, we build back up. Whomever you sue, ten new pirates are recruited. Wherever you go, we are already ahead of you. You are the past and the forgotten, we are the internet and the future."

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