'much of the problem with illegal sharing of copyrighted material has been caused by the rightsholders, and the music industry in particular, being far too slow in getting their act together and making popular legal alternatives available.'
- All Party Parliamentary Communications Group
apComms seem like a bunch of decent guys. They're on our side. I appreciate that, I really do… but I still think they're wrong.
It is an argument I hear a lot, and I don't think it does us any favours.
It is correct, of course, that the record industry has been too slow to respond to changing technology, but let us imagine that they had not been. Imagine if things had been different.
It is December 1999, Napster is just beginning to take off and Metallica have not yet sent a threatening legal letter to LawPUNK's future girlfriend. The RIAA, guided by the artists it represents, decide not to sue Napster, but instead to welcome it with open arms. With flowers in their hair they collaborate with Napster founder Shawn Fanning. Now the music on Napster will come directly from the record labels and be available for download at the very reasonable price of $5 an album with a free blow job for every 100th customer.
Would that have made a difference?
Yes and no. I'm certain it would have been a huge success, a far greater success even than iTunes is today. It may even have kept record executives in sunglasses and Cuban heels for another couple of decades...
But that's all. Delaying the inevitable.
The end result was always going to be the same. I won't go into the reasons for it here (I'm saving it for a future post), but music was always going to be free eventually.
I don't often side with the record industry, but telling them that it's their fault is unfair. Yes they handled it badly, and yes they have done a great job at being royal assholes, but they were always heading in the same direction.
It's like the Terminator trilogy. Even though they blow up Skynet they still get f*cked by robots in the end.
And yes, I used 'trilogy' on purpose.