It seems that even with the popular advent of music streaming services, that music piracy is still a long way from being a minor discussion topic of the music industry. Particularly when the arguments come from those that make it.
Key figures of the music industry have made a public attack on internet search engines, like super-giant Google, claiming that they are helping users to gain easier access to pirated music.
The Age reports that Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend of The Who, Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant and Queen guitar wizard Brian May are just a handful of the music legends who have signed a public letter addressed to British Prime Minister David Cameron, highlighting the role that internet search engines play in giving access to illegal downloads and copies of their music.
Other musical celebrities on the open letter include Elton John, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and UK rappers Professor Green and Tinie Tempah, who have all added to a rollcall stating that the likes of Google must “play their part in protecting consumers and creators from illegal sites.” The signatories adding that broadband companies, internet service providers and online advertisers are also responsible for the prevention of music piracy.
While there’s no faulting the legacy of such prominent musical figures, it seems odd that they’re chasing search engines to stem music piracy. Search engines like Google – while massive in scope – are simply a tool for scouring the internet and its furthest reaches, should the onus really be placed on them for how their users are employing it as a tool? If you burn your toast, do you blame the toaster?
The public letter isn’t the first time the music industry in the UK has gone after search engines as culprits, accusing the likes of Google of making it easier for users to find links to file-sharing websites. The British Recorded Music Indusry (BPI) recently accused Google of not doing enough to police file-sharing links, NME quotes Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive of the BPI, saying: “Once we’ve told Google 100,000 times that a particular site is illegal, we don’t think that site should be coming above iTunes and Spotify in the results.”
Taylor added that if Google “have knowledge that a site is illegal… that site should be blocked.”
Google denies supporting piracy and says it removes millions of links a month from its listings after requests from music publishers. In response, Theo Bertram – the serach engine’s Policy Manager in the UK – says:
“It’s not for Google to go around the web judging what is or isn’t legal, and I don’t think people would want us to do that. When people tell us, that’s my content on that page, we remove it quickly, and we do almost two million of those every month… but what our research shows is that however much you don on filtering, on blocking, what would be much more effective is to go after the money – to remove the underpinnings, the advertising, the payment processes, from these sites.”
The signatories of the public letter to Prime Minister Cameron have urged the British Government to intervene, and to move quickly to implement the anti-piracy laws passed two years ago. Called ‘The 2010 Digital Economy Act’, the new laws lay out plans to send warning letters to individuals who illegally download music and potentially have their internet access cut off, but the act will not be implemented until 2014.
The additional spotlight of the 2012 London Olympics has put further heat on internet search engines and the urgency of the matter, with attention placed on Britain’s creative industries. The public letter argues that it is an opportune time to ‘increase exports’ from the music industry. “‘We can realise this potential only if we have a strong domestic copyright framework, so creative industries can earn a fair return on their huge investments creating original content,” write the signatories.
Adding that the British government should be pressuring Google into reducing music piracy and that illegal downloading should be ”pushed to the margins”.
In related music piracy news, we’ve already seen recent rulings from the US High Court to refuse to reduce a student’s $US 675,000 fine for illegally downloading 30 songs, to Japan’s laws changing to severely punish individuals who breach copyright infringement. Meanwhile, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in favour of telecommunication companies that scrapped additional r0yalties for musicians, writers and publishers for music used in videogames and movies; essentially good news for internet service providers and bad news for music-makers and their copyright.