Label supported P2P?

It’s taken about nine years since Napster burst on the scene, but the recording industry may have finally gotten it.

Over the years the industry has sued countless peer to peer networks, internet service providers, and individuals, but that strategy has been about as effective as trying to stop a freight train by throwing snowballs at it. They never got a defining legal opinion or law in their favour, but had to prove each case separately and with mixed results — looking like total jerks in the process by suing 13 year olds for tens of thousands of dollars, for downloading a few hundred dollars worth of music.

Sony tried embedding digital rights management software in CD’s, but in the process created a nasty Trojan virus that compromised the security of thousands of computers and even disabled a few systems when the owners tried to remove the harmful program. Sony vowed to try again, but after researching the alternatives they quietly gave up and shifted their focus back to the usual lobbying of governments, lawsuits, and other strategies favoured by the Recording Industry Association of America and its affiliated recording companies.  

Recently, the music industry took the extraordinary position that anybody who has ever transferred a song from a CD to their computer and put it on their computer or MP3 player has stolen that music. In their opinion, all copying of copyrighted material is wrong and everybody is a thief.

What isn’t clear at this point is whether the music industry sees Microsoft, Apple, Sony and all the other companies that make software that allow you to rip music from CDs onto your computer as being guilty of facilitating that theft. After all, they make our theft possible.

As if that wasn’t enough, at their recent summit in Cannes the music industry executives also restated their goal of making internet service providers (ISPs) responsible for their customers trading or sharing music through P2P networks, email, podcasts, and other digital music sharing platforms. They would force ISPs to spy on their customers, report customers stealing music, and take action to stop or penalize said customers, or be liable for what happens. So far they’ve failed, but they could be one court ruling away for setting the precedent.

Still, for all these activities the image of the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dam comes to mind.

But just when you think the music industry couldn’t get any more absurd, nasty, desperate, or wholly detached from reality, some of its biggest players at last seemed to grasp the concept that managing music in the internet age isn’t about maintaining control but about finding creative ways to profit by going with the flow.

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