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In a recent opinion article of his own within the New York Times, U2 front man Bono warned all creative types to beware of the evils of the Internet, especially us greedy ISP types.

He states “The only thing protecting the movie and TV industries from the fate that has befallen music and indeed the newspaper business is the size of the files. The immutable laws of bandwidth tell us we’re just a few years away from being able to download an entire season of “24” in 24 seconds. Many will expect to get it free.” A tad over dramatic but he’s probably right on that one.

However he continues “A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can’t live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us — and the people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.”

This statement just goes to show why multi-millionaire Bono should stick to singing and campaigning for poorer nations and leave the economics of Internet service provision to the professionals. Those of us within this supposedly swollen, profit rich Internet industry are more than aware of the reality. Consumer demand for the cheapest, fastest broadband continues to increase resulting in even lower profit margins for us “greedy” ISPs.

And as for the comment about our “swollen profits perfectly mirroring the lost receipts of the music business” – where do we begin? I would hazard a guess that these, are yet again, calculated on flawed hypothetical principles that everyone who downloads illegally would actually legally purchase the same amount of music. This is ridiculous. Just because Fred can download 20 songs for free does not mean that he would have otherwise paid for them all.

It goes from bad to worse as he goes on to slate ISPs for not being prepared to police the Internet (I refer you to our previous articles see Entanet Opinion: Guilty until proven innocent is wrong approach to file sharing and Entanet Opinion: Murdoch vs Google – biting the hand that feeds him?)  and completely misses the point here, stating “We’re the post office, they tell us; who knows what’s in the brown-paper packages?”. There are two things very wrong with that analogy. Firstly by law, the Post Office is not allowed to open your mail nor would most reasonable people with reasonable privacy awareness want them to. Secondly, ISPs have not said they can’t or won’t inspect packets, they have simply raised concerns regarding privacy and the morality of this practice. What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

He emphasises this point by congratulating the US for its attempts to stop child pornography and even mentions China’s censorship, stating “But we know from America’s noble effort to stop child pornography, not to mention China’s ignoble effort to suppress online dissent, that it’s perfectly possible to track content.” The point is ISPs never questioned that these types of tactics were possible. We simply raised concerns over the quite obvious morality of censorship and DPI, a concern that I am sure is shared by many of his ‘Save The World’ supporters. I wonder what his old pal Bob Geldof would think about that?

Bono is simply demonstrating once again that these industries (namely music and news) do not understand the new distribution models that the Internet has provided and rather than attempt to adapt and embrace the new opportunities like many of his ambitious rivals have (e.g. Radiohead and Ash). He instead wants someone to blame, and that I am afraid is once again, the ISPs.

As we said in our previous article ‘Guilty until proven innocent is wrong approach to file sharing’:

“What’s needed is a total re-think of how digital rights are managed and controlled by the entertainment industry. They need to come up with a way of maximising availability while also protecting the copyright of the material and thus profiting from its eventual popularity. This is not going to be easy of course as, in order to make a film, video or piece of music a success, you need to find a way to make it available. At the moment, once a user has it in their possession in the form of a file that they can play back, stopping them from copying that file and / or sending it elsewhere is very difficult.

In essence, the very thing that makes a song or video popular – the ability for it to be shared – is also the problem. It is really the same problem that we have always had with the Internet in that it removes barriers and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to control the spread of information and bar entry to markets. This though has also been one of the main benefits of the Internet – it has created truly global markets, removed the barriers to entry for smaller and more innovative companies, and made information (as well as video and music) much more freely available to everyone.

In any event, we think it’s high time that rights holders rethink their distribution models to take account of modern channels and the nature of customer demand.”

My favourite comment of Bono’s article is possibly his closing line where he states “Note to self: Don’t get over-rewarded rock stars on this bully pulpit, or famous actors”. Oops too late!

Have your say!

What do you think about Bono’s comments? Is he right, should ISPs be policing the Internet or do you agree with Entanet that the music industry needs to embrace the Internet instead of fighting it? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

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6 Responses to “Bono – stick to singing!”

  1. I’m greatly encouraged that ISPs are gradually starting to side with their customers in this political battle.

    Faced with a music industry that seems hell-bent on forcing us to stream data at all times if we want to have free music instead of letting us store things locally, I wonder if and when the first ISP is be willing to stand up and say ‘legalising not-for-profit file sharing is a solution that would be popular with the public, bring us more customers and would save bandwidth in the long term.’

    ISPs have a difficult choice ahead of them. When the government forces them to send out 3-strikes letters, the public’s reaction will inevitably be very, very negative. The public see this as a ‘them and us’ situation, with Geffen, Mandelson, the RIAA and now Bono as the bad guys. I think it’s time to weigh up the cost of the public adding your company’s name to that list with the risk of fighting back.

    While I realise it will be an uphill struggle to get any ISP to publically or financially back the Pirate Party UK, there are already a lot of people out there willing to jump to whichever ISP is perceived as being the most pirate-friendly. Talk Talk seem to be winning that race at the moment, but they haven’t yet take the step of advocating the legalisation of file sharing.

    As leader of the Pirate Party UK, I firmly believe legalisation is the only technically workable solution, as well as the only solution that will be popular with the public and the only solution that will not brand a whole generation as criminals. Is any one brave enough to agree with me yet?

  2. I really, really want to agree because the internet has done incredible things for the artist, BUT, I just flat out really hate the internet and music collaboration. I’m no expert, I’m just a high school student, but I think that embracing the internet can and has lead to a lot of exploitation. It’s hard for me to side here; I almost think that fighting back will be useless and will just make a lot users unhappy, although I really wish we could. I also think that embracing the internet has the potential to allow us to create “truly global markets,” but like I’ve said, I just don’t like it.

    I wrote a blog for a school project on how the internet has changed the music business, and if you would like to help a student get a good grade could you check it out and leave some feedback? Thank you very much.

  3. I agreen with Darren, Bono should keep to singing.

    However, as with alot of other things this depends on your point of view.

    Bono/music industry/movie industry focus to damm much on what _they_ think is their lost income when they see 1 song/album being downloaded.

    In my opinion there is some main scenarios by downloading music.
    Lets say there is a new album out:

    1) Cant buy it(not avail in your region yet and to excited to wait, happends outside the US)

    2) Unsure about quailty, download to find out (if you buy what you think is a shit album you cant get your money refunded and not everyone want to waste money to take that risk)

    3) Piracy no intention of buying it ever or supporting the band, but there is a chanche that they play 1 song to some friends that fall in category 1 or 2 and end up buying the cd or going to a concert.

    4) Piracy of album, with no intetion of buying it ever but goes to see them live instead if/when they come to either a festival or concert nearby. And again like 3 might introduce it to friends that fall into category 1 and 2, that might then go buy it

    5) Downloading a album you allready own on a physical media, e.g. a cd, but are to lazy or dont have the technical knowhow to rip into an audiofile yourself.

    1&2 might buy that album later when the price is down or go see that band live, in either case the music industry will focus on the 1 download they “lost” and not consider that it might have generated income that would otherwise not have been there.

    But lets also keep one more thing in mind:
    I think most people will agree that if they get bad service or hear about a friend getting bad service at a given electronics/clothes/whatever shop the likeliness of you making more buisness at that shop falls. The more bad cases you hear the more the odds of you shopping at that place again will drop.
    So when you hear about some young person in the U.S.A. for instance getting sued and ending up paying 10.000 $ or more per track downloaded, is that a kind of buisness you want to support?

    But then again, while both the music industry and movie industry whine about lossing money to piracy, their income hasent exactly declined to 0.

    That was part of my view about “piracy” but to get back to another part of the article about ISPs playing police.

    Bad idea, there is alot of reasons why but let me name a few:
    From a technical standpoint, it is important to keep in mind that not everything you can download of the internet is illegal, there is alot of opensource software, bands that release music free of charge, instructors that releases documenteries etc.
    How would an ISP know if everyone encrypt their dataflow what is exactly transmitted? They cant.

    From an ethical standpoint, we allready got 1 institute to enforce laws, they are called the police. ISPs shouldnt be an online police, and if they start with playing police online, what will be the next? Freedom of speech going out the window because you can no longer talk bad about companies that lobby the U.S. Goverment? If Bono wants to go to China he is very much welcome to go there.

    With this said I ll say goodnight, and once again: Bono stick to singing.

  4. Hi all,

    Thank you all for your comments on this highly topical issue.

    For AndyPPUK and our other readers I’d like to start by clarifying that, whilst we disagree with many of the points in Bono’s article and question the accuracy of his calculations, we don’t condone illegal file sharing. We will of course abide by any new legislation that is imposed, despite the fact that we have regularly raised concerns over the accuracy, morality and effectiveness of the proposed new measures. We understand the plight of the entertainment industries and don’t disagree that illegal file sharing has damaged their revenues. However we firmly believe that they’re not helping this situation by blaming the ISPs and refusing to embrace the new opportunities that the Internet provides, for example by adapting to new distribution channels.

    Like CarstenDK we believe that the role of policing the Internet shouldn’t fall to ISPs who are mere conduits of Internet traffic. Bono himself uses the analogy of the Post Office – would you want your postman opening and reading your mail? The basic principles are the same and we’re firm believers in the policy of innocent until proven guilty and are firmly opposed to the potential disconnection of users without trial.

    Whilst of course we have respect for Bono’s musical talents, achievements and his proactive humanitarian work, we believe his comments on this issue are ill informed and misguided and therefore feel he should stick to the things he does best.

  5. Thanks for following up on this, it’s all too rare to get a reply from the author on blogs like this.

    Of course, it goes without saying that the Pirate Party UK does not condone illegal file sharing either. We need to change the law, not break the law. We believe that legalisation would be good for society, for content creators, and good for ISPs. I find it strange that ISPs are prepared to campaign against the unfair and unjust poposals in the digital economy bill but not against the unfair and unjust copyright laws that created the problem in the first place.

    I’m surprised to see you saying “(we) don’t disagree that illegal file sharing has damaged their revenues”, since there is lots of well respected independent research to the contrary, and there are comprehensive debunkings of much of the industry funded research that disagrees. Your willingness to believe them serves to highlight that this is a propaganda battle, and if ISPs want to get a fair deal, they must be prepared to engage in and fund political campaigns, such as Talk Talk’s ‘dontdisconnect.us’.

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