It’s clear that BPI CEO Geoff Taylor has his hands full. As the head of the UK record industry’s trade association, he has had a long slog trying to get the British government, as well as the country’s ISPs, to take the issue of illegal downloads seriously.
In July, the BPI – after two years of hammering away – signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Britain’s six largest ISPs, who agreed to work with the organisation to try to stop illegal downloads, including sending out written warnings to customers caught pirating content. During the EconMusic keynote interview with Staci D. Kramer, co-editor and EVP of our parent ContentNext Media, Taylor said he believed the ISPs would honour their commitments, adding “ISPs cannot wash their hands of [this issue], they have a responsible role to play.”
But the question remains: how far ISPs are willing to go? While the BPI is hoping that ISPs will soon ramp up to sending out 1,000 letters a week to offending customers, ISPs have obviously been strong-armed into the agreement. One audience member from ISP Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) wanted to know, would an ISP be compensated for disconnecting a customer, especially when the downloads were only one part of their activity online? No way, Taylor said, would ISPs be reimbursed for lost business if they do disconnect customers. Taylor was quick to say there were many alternatives to disconnection, including ISPs coming up with their own legal music services. Disconnection remains a hope for the BPI, amongst a proposed three-step procedure, but it’s not something the ISPs committed to in their memorandum.
— When does music cease to be something you own? An audience member wanted to know when music stops being something you own, if you aren’t permitted to put it on as many devices as you want. Taylor’s quick reply: If you buy it, you should own it forever. That said, formats change, records became CDs. Taylor said the labels support a consumer’s ability to buy and to support it on any device, but also said that personal use should remain personal.
— Labels vs. devices: Who’s to blame for the lack of DRM interoperability? One audience member thought device manufacturers were “getting away with blaming labels.” and asked the BPI to stop letting “the labels take the backlash.” Labels are pro interoperability, he argued, while device makers had more of an incentive to keep consumers locked to their device. Taylor noted again that if you buy a track, you should not be able to give away to hundreds of devices, but it should be able to support a “legitimate” number of devices.
— Punishing consumers: Three strikes is not about punishing consumers. Taylor reiterates that it’s about “balance” and those who believe that there’s a case about giving music away free without considering how to make money are