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Archive for August, 2008

Pan-European Licensing or Push-Me-Pull-You?

August 29, 2008 Leave a comment

Last week the UK’s Performing Rights Society (PRS) succeeded in stopping their Dutch counterpart, Buma, from issuing unauthorised pan-European licenses for online music. Could this be a sign of the classic one-step-forward, two-steps-backward situation for the pan-European licensing initiative?

According to an article on Digital Music News, the Dutch licensing organisation BUMA implemented a pan-European rights package for an online store called Beatport, back in July 2008. However it appears they may have been premature in claiming that it covers worldwide repertoire even on works that belonged to other societies, (e.g. the portfolio included assets managed by the British Performing Rights Society (PRS)), and they got sued as a result – which makes a change from suing consumers!

On the surface, pan-European licensing simply makes good sense as it should greatly reduce the headache associated with collecting / reconciling royalties between the member states, and the European Commission has championed this by mandating a pan-European licensing system. Unfortunately, the various societies seem to be in direct competition with each other when it comes to administering works outside of their own particular territories hence this situation. According to a press release on the PRS website, this “important decision confirmed that collection societies cannot issue licences without the consent of rights holders and will ensure that the rights of all songwriters and music publishers will be fairly upheld throughout Europe.” It went further to state that this ruling confirms that “no society can issue licences without the express agreement of the other”.

This is all well and good so far, until we consider the fact that just last month the European Commission was still pushing for the removal of all impediments to the pan-European licensing system, including such “territorial restrictions that prevent a collecting society from offering licences to commercial users outside their domestic territory” (see Billboard’s Industry News coverage of the same story). Now far be it for me to question the intentions of any royalty collecting society, but surely if progress lies in a pan-European, or global, reciprocal licensing system, (as opposed to the country-by-country, society-based competitive mish-mash we currently have), then who stands to gain the most by keeping this current system in play? Answers please anyone?

Blog Awards Note. This blog was voted runner up in the recent ComputerWeekly Blog Awards 08 (under the Web2.0 and business blogs category). Congrats to the category winner, TechCrunch UK, and my sincere thanks to all those who voted for me. Next time it will be gold. Promise.

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Moving from DRM to ISP-RM

August 3, 2008 Leave a comment

Last month the BBC news website reported that six major UK ISPS had reached an agreement with the music industry to tackle content piracy by monitoring and sending out warning letters to suspected illegal file sharers. Given other similar recent proposals (e.g. 3 strikes rule), and the dismal failure of media DRM, one can’t help but ask the question: is this merely a transition from DRM to “ISP-RM” and will it meet a similar fate?

This above voluntary agreement is centred around a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), drawn up by the UK Government department for Business and Enterprise Regulatory Reform (BERR), and will involve mass mailing of notification letters to suspect illegal file sharers (including download and upload), and subsequent bandwidth throttling for “hardcore” or persistent file sharers. Now this is all well and good until we start to think about the practicality and implications for various stakeholders (i.e. whose interests are best served by this initiative) based on the following top-of-head analysis of desirable outcomes:

  1. Creative Stakeholders (i.e. artistes and content creators – not necessarily rights owners. E.g. musicians, performers, producers etc.) – More economic benefits derived from their works as a result of reduced piracy directly from this initiative
  2. Technology Stakeholders (i.e. providers of content access and consumption services e.g. ISPs and device makers) – Reduced exposure to risk of legal threats / actions by content rights owners
  3. Commercial Stakeholders (i.e. content rights owners and their representative organisations e.g. BPI and MPAA) – Reduced piracy and a better return on investment from content IP
  4. Governance Stakeholders (i.e. lawmakers and enforcers e.g. the UK Government and legal practitioners) – A better more functional implementation and enforcement of digital IP / eCopyright system
  5. Consumer Stakeholders (i.e. consumers and end-users of digital content) – Assured quality of service from their Broadband provider and reduced risk of legal action by content owners for infringement

Hmmm…, everyone wins it would appear; but cynics might suggest that some stakeholders stand to win more than others (as usual) and they won’t be far wrong. However, the real question should be about which stakeholder group/s has the most power to derail the whole arrangement, and to what extent they have they been consulted / involved in this initiative.

And now a word from the Cylons:

On lighter note, I think the Cylons may have the best, albeit device oriented, philosophy and explanation / clarification of the problems with DRM and other digital content control mechanisms, as shown on the YouTube video.

I look forward to your comments on this one!