Big label pressure has forced British cable ISP Virgin Media to suspend plans to introduce a legal music sharing service for its subscribers, just weeks ahead of its launch, The Register has learned.
The radical initiative, tentatively branded as “Virgin Music Unlimited”, represented a major investment for the ISP, and would have been the first such attempt to monetise P2P file sharing in an ISP partnership in either Europe or the USA. However, 11th hour “anti-piracy” demands by major record labels including Universal Music and Sony Music meant Virgin could no longer launch the service as it had envisaged. Labels demanded that Virgin block uploads and downloads of songs from subscribers’ PCs, sources suggest. Since the system is designed to encourage file sharing, the demand removed the service’s USP.
Virgin is believed to be particularly disappointed at the collapse of the initiative. The ISP had been the first to co-operate with the music business-ISP Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed last July and send warning letters to file sharers. It had also made a significant investment in the Music Unlimited initiative, estimated at eight figures.
Continue reading “Virgin puts legal P2P plans on ice”
The Isle of Man’s e-commerce minister says he wants to legalise P2P music file sharing – taking just one Euro a year from broadband subscribers.
Tim Craine told us today that such a scheme would be voluntary. The Manx government is hopeful that blanket P2P schemes would be rolled out in other countries – including the UK.
“If you take a Euro a year from millions, then that’s a lot of revenue,” Craine told us.
“There is an opt-out for people who don’t want a compulsory charge. We would envisage an opt-out – there would be a public reaction against it,” he explained. “But you have to compete with free.”
Continue reading “Manx P2P for €1 a year?”
The plan to provide US students with compulsory flat-fee music finally has a name, it emerged this week. Choruss LLC will provide participating universities with a replacement for their current subscription services such as Rhapsody, and has the backing of the the EFF and the tacit support of the RIAA. That alone indicates the magnitude of the initiative. When have those two lobbying groups ever agreed on music policy?
Continue reading “Jim Griffin's Choruss”
bullient lawyer Chris Castle has a unique perspective on the Music Wars. A former Sony and A&M executive who “switched sides” to Silicon Valley, then found himself defending the original Napster, which he called one of the greatest inventions of the 20th Century. His clients range from technology companies to major recording artists.
So to introduce the first of some regular specials from Chris, here are his views on the music business’ biggest errors – and whether there’s any cause for optimism. He’s never dull, it’s mostly Chris in his own words…
Read more at The Register.
Put yourself in these hypothetical shoes for a moment. My goal is to make as much money as possible by doing as little work as possible. I have no creative talent except for generating and recycling marketing buzzwords. I have no technical knowledge or ability – but I can get my head around a Twitter feed. It doesn’t sound promising, but you’ll want in, I promise.
Now let’s imagine a business that can achieve our goals.
The natural place to start this business is on the internet – where one can harness the labour of millions of people and pay them sod all for their work. Under the smokescreen of “collective intelligence” or harnessing “the wisdom of the crowd”, we can keep our supply costs at zero. And if we can keep reminding these rubes that “power lies at the edge of the network” or “in the Long Tail”, they’ll produce lots of stuff for us for nothing, without complaining.
That’s the supply side sorted out. However, we need to attract an audience.
We know that the traditional vices – gambling and porn – will drive substantial traffic to our service. But gambling has regulatory issues – and porn takes us away from the mainstream. That leaves music – the stuff of life, and proven crowd-puller. So let’s make music the main feature of our service.
Continue reading “How to destroy the music business”
What happens when you put three economists from the internet, telecomms, and the music businesses in a room and don’t let them out until they’ve agreed on something useful?
A paper published by the research unit of the British composers’ collection society today gives us a clue. The first results of a “knocking heads together” exercise, entitled Shadow pricing P2P’s economic impact, doesn’t offer any ready policy proposals – partly as a result of compromise – but it does offer a framework that’s better thought out than most attempts so far.
Continue reading “A new economics of P2P file sharing”
Apple will fill in some long-awaited missing features from its iPod and iPhone mobile players, a patent application published this week suggests. There’s just one problem: Much of Apple’s “invention” was dreamed up by Reg readers several years ago – and one embodiment is already on the market.
Continue reading “Apple (finally) tries to patent BluePod”
In Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow, set in WW2 London, a character called Slothrop begins to realize that everywhere he has sex, a V2 rocket subsequently lands on the same spot, obliterating the area. If you dig a little, you may notice something spookily similar with the idea of a Music Tax in the media.
Back in March, talk of a Music Tax suddenly exploded at the SxSW music conference in Austin. WiReD‘s blog ran a story by Frank Rose, entitled Music Industry Proposes a Piracy Surcharge on ISPs.
“[The] idea is to collect a fee from internet service providers – something like $5 per user per month – and put it into a pool that would be used to compensate songwriters, performers, publishers and music labels.” Apparently this was the brainwave of Jim Griffin, a collective licensing advocate hired by Warners to think the unthinkable. Here’s an interview with him from 2004, where he dismisses the idea that collective license should be compulsory, should penalise non-participants, or be imposed by the government. “Government has an after the fact role, as it does with Antitrust legislation. The arguments should be voluntary,” he said then, and sources indicated he hadn’t changed his mind.
A pool, yes, but not a tax.
Coincidentally, the International Music Managers’ Forum happened to be meeting in Austin, and its former head (and now Emeritus President) Peter Jenner was quoted in the article.
Last week, another screaming came across the sky, and another Tax Bomb fell to earth, this time in London.
Continue reading “Why (almost) nobody wants a music tax”
Legal broadband subscription services that permit file sharing may appear on the market by the year’s end, according to music industry sources – after government intervention brought both music suppliers and ISPs to the table.
The UK would become the second country after South Korea where the music business has agreed to offer licenses to file sharing services in a bid to reverse declining revenues. The co-operation follows the intervention of “Brown’s Fist”, the former advisor and Parliamentary Under-Secretary at BERR (the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform) Baroness Shriti Vadera. Vadera is understood to have threatened both the ISP and music businesses with reform and policy intervention, threats which encouraged both parties to open negotiations.
The government is understood to be extremely reluctant to intervene with legislation as it threatened to do earlier this year, and cross-industry agreement to offer attractive consumer broadband music services would mean it wouldn’t have to.
No deals have been signed yet and significant details have yet to be addressed. These include the royalty share between mechanical, sound recording and publishing rights holders, and administration issues. A significant amount of music released has never been licensed digitally – so should a music service provider ignore it, or attempt to pay the owners? As for price, this will be determined by the ISPs. However, sources are confident that Q4 2008 or Q1 2009 will see such the first of these offered to the public.
The move would represent the most radical supply-side reform ever considered by the music business in the modern era.
Continue reading “Legal P2P 'by year end'”
Timing is everything in business, and having a visionary idea too early can prove fatal. So it is with Shawn Fanning’s Snocap, which has formally announced today that it’s being acquired by Imeem. Or what’s left of it – most Snocap employees were laid off last year, with Fanning long gone.
Snocap was created to provide the mechanics and infrastructure for a “legal P2P” system based around collective licensing. There were two parts to the masterplan: a database of artists, and watermarking technology which permitted network operators to track the flows of songs around networks, so rights holders could be compensated according to usage.
That was a prophetic and incredibly far-sighted decision to take in 2002. But it’s only now the major labels are even contemplating a collective licensing regime. Long time copyright reform advocate Jim Griffin has been hired by Warner Music with the first goal to license US universities, we reported here.
Silicon Valley VCs are notorious for not understanding “old” media businesses, and most wish they would simply go away. (They’re not alone in lacking the vision thing: Ars Technica first described Snocap with the headline “Fanning behind new, pointless P2P scheme. So what should have been the cornerstone for the biggest change in copyright in 100 years won’t be around to reap the rewards.)
And for their part, many in the music business now regret not licensing Fanning’s first venture, Napster. Counting was so much easier.
Snocap was sidetracked from the masterplan, licensing music and building digital stores. The database registry has seven million songs, the company says.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.