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ShareUpdate: U2 – Stick to the Music!

Back in January 2010, we criticised U2 front man Bono for warning all creative types to beware of the evils of the Internet and especially us greedy ISP types when it came to illegal file sharing.  We recommended Bono should stick to singing.

Darren Farnden, Head of Marketing

Darren Farnden, Head of Marketing

It would appear that U2’s manager, Paul McGuinness, didn’t read our opinion as he’s now thrown in his two cents worth of comment within the August issue of GQ magazine. In it he also slams ISPs for “decimating the music industry” and profiteering from online file sharing, whilst also being the cause of recorded music sales falling.

Like Bono, Mr. McGuinness believes illegal file sharing is the reason for ISPs’ increasing profit margins by suggesting “free content has helped fuel the vast profits of the technology and telecoms industries”.  However, as we stated in our original Opinion article ‘Bono – Stick to Singing’ (opinion.enta.net: Bono – Stick to singing), in reality broadband customers continue to demand the fastest broadband at the lowest price which squeezes ISPs’ margins. Those of us within the Internet industry will also know that it is actually more costly to support such infringers due to the extra bandwidth they consume. Our increasing revenues are more likely to be down to the innovative new technologies we deploy and the additional services we provide to add value to customers’ experience.

Considering Mr. McGuinness proudly informs us he has been debating on this issue for two years, he seems to totally misunderstand the reasons behind broadband customers’ demand for better broadband speeds and equally doesn’t understand the current facilities available on the Internet. He asks “Do people want more bandwidth to speed up their e-mails or to download music and films as rapidly as possible?” Well, if he took the time to make an informed comment through proper research he’d see that, in reality, most broadband customers want to be better able to take advantage of ‘legal’ technologies such as online gaming, YouTube, iPlayer, iTunes, VoIP and a vast array of business oriented services that are currently available. It is simply naive to suggest that customers’ desire for faster broadband and more bandwidth is driven solely by a desire to cheat music rights holders out of their royalties through illegal file sharing. Furthermore, without legal services such as iTunes music sales would undeniably decrease. Does Mr. McGuinness want to close down this a distribution model that has proven to contribute positively to music sales? Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face!

Not only does Mr. McGuinness decide to attack ISPs in his misinformed ranting’s, he’s also decided to have a pop at “anonymous bloggers”.  In an interview with news site CNET last autumn, he mentions he was “set on by a horde of bloggers” and believes it is for this reason that many artists and musicians fail to inform the world about how they feel on the subject. I wonder if it’s ever occurred to him that one of the reasons why he receives such harsh criticism may be down to him being wrong.

Things go from bad to worse as Mr. McGuinness tries to lay blame on ISPs for the closure of Virgin’s record stores and declares many independent stores are barely hanging on.  I’d imagine the real reason is more likely to be down to the changing nature of customers’ desire for buying music, the technology that’s evolved to address that desire and customers consequent wish to play their purchased music in different formats on different platforms such as their iPod, mobile and laptop. The BPI – (BPI.co.uk: 2009 music sales show decline but digital retail market starts to deliver, 7 January 2010) states “While sales of physical CDs continue to trend downwards, music fans are clearly responding to the explosive growth of digital retailers”.

The music industry and the likes of Mr. McGuinness and Bono need to come to terms with the fact that ‘free’ music did not arise from the Internet. Since the introduction of the audio cassette in the early 1960’s, people have been able to make copies of music or even make recordings off the radio. This followed with the introduction of the Redbrook CD standard that didn’t have any copy protection built in, making it easy to ‘rip’ an audio CD. As we said in our previous article (opinion.enta.net: 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 fairness to Mr. McGuinness, he does suggest ways to stop the ‘free-music bonanza’. The first is an unlimited-streaming subscription service, similar to that provided by Spotify. However, whilst unlimited-streaming subscription services are an option to prevent illegal file sharing and would protect copyright, they wouldn’t necessarily enhance the revenues for artists and musicians like McGuinness dreams of. His second suggestion is that ISPs should take “proportionate responsible steps to stop customers illegally file sharing on their networks”. This brings us back once again to our continuing argument that ISPs are not the Internet police. We are mere conduits and are already being forced to introduce warnings for instances of illegal activity with the implementation of the DEA (for the record, Entanet always has co-operated with rights holders in cautioning illegal file sharers).  What more can ISPs possibly do to stop customers illegally file sharing and why is the emphasis being put on us to solve the problem yet again? It’s about time the music industry took responsibility for its own revenues and embraced the new distribution models available instead of trying to shut them down!

Have your say!

What do you think about Mr. McGuinness’ claims? Do you agree with him that the fate of the music industry is the responsibility of ISPs or do you think the music industry should find a way to benefit from the Internet through legal services instead of trying to close it down at every opportunity.

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2 Responses to “Update: U2 – Stick to the Music!”

  1. How can you complain about being forced by the DEA to implement measures to combat file-sharing, when you were volunteering customer information to ACS:law -and being paid for it!


  2. Hi cjp, thanks for the comment. Just for the record, Entanet doesn’t volunteer information in these circumstances. It’s important to understand that we only provide information relating to such alleged customer infringement when required to do so by law, for example as a consequence of receiving a court order, RIPA request or similar legal demand.

    As you’ve seen, there’s been a lot of comment about the recent ACS:Law information leak incident and further forum debate about ISPs providing the details of customers believed to be infringing copyright to solicitors so that they can pursue them. Within this blog we’ve already highlighted the actions of law firms such as Davenport Lyons and ACS:Law and given our view on their actions (see: http://opinion.enta.net/2008/09/08/are-you-on-the-list/ and http://opinion.enta.net/2010/01/28/are-you-on-the-list-%E2%80%93-update/#more-739).

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