Friday, January 12, 2007

today : technology week: Downloading - the new cassettes?

My nephews and nieces (along with almost everyone their age) have entered the music market at a time when downloading is the norm. Let's face it, if you want a track, then you can get it either legitimately or illegitimately. If they have money they buy CDs, video games and movies. If they don't then they download them.

In the meantime the record, game and film industries are desperate to stop file-sharing and protect their copyrights. A couple of weeks ago they were denied an attempt to extend publishing copyright, alongside their constant whining about lost profits and prosecution of file-sharers both large and small.

I am aware of the fact that there are some people who copy and redistribute digital media on an industrial basis. I have no sympathy for these people. They should be caught and prosecuted for stealing. But in going after individual file-sharers the music industry is simply replaying the failed and stupid home taping campaign, which suggested that, at a time of technological crossover, consumers should buy two copies of an album, depending on where they were playing it.

When I first got into music, home taping was fantastic, and the only way that could get access to new music on my weekend barman wages was to join the local record library and furiously record as much of its stock as I could. I would take out my maximum five items at a time, sometimes three or four times a week, buy ten packs of cassettes and then simply record vinyl albums whilst doing homework or watching TV. By the end of each month I'd have ten or twenty new abums to listen to. Some I would record over, others I would keep. Some I fell in love with and went out to buy for myself. Over the course of a couple of years I gathered hundreds of albums which fed and nurtured my lifelong love of music. There was no way I was going to buy a box-set of Beethoven's Symphonies, or Claudio Arrau (that is he pictured above) playing Debussy. What with all the other teenage drains on my meagre resources I couldn't afford to buy King of The Delta Blues or Electric Ladyland. What little money I had spare for buying records I would spend on stuff that was in the charts.

20 years on I am still buying copies of things I know note for note but were deleted or went down the pecking order.Ironically, despite two more new formats since my taping days, some of them have never become available to buy. I own one album by a fairly mainstream band that I bought from my old record library when they were having a sell off of old stock. It has never been released on CD or for download.

Here's the thing. Music fans, or film fans, or gamers or whoever tend to spend the maximum of their disposable income on music films or games. If file sharing or MP3 ripping occurs with these people it is because their appetites are voracious and they want more than they can afford. The 'lost' profits from file-sharing are mostly bogus. It is just dollar signs spinning in the eyes of industry execs.

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