Former Pink Floyd and T Rex manager Peter Jenner, now emeritus president of the International Music Managers’ Forum, talks online music, copyright and the future of the music industry.
>Was the UK Digital Economy Act right to focus on copyright?
I can see what they were trying to do, but where they went wrong was in obsessing about piracy and P2P (peer-to-peer) filesharing. It became about how we stop P2P and in my book stopping P2P is like trying to stop it raining. The whole internet is built on copying.
The act focuses on a false problem. That is not to say that people not paying for music is not a problem. But P2P is just one of many ways in which you can access music for free. People have memory sticks, blank CDs, email, instant messaging, so I think it was a very facile look at the issue which was driven by the copyright industry.
>What angle should the government have taken when debating the act?
They should have looked at the question the other way round by taking into account how people access their music. If what we want is to make sure the creators are properly rewarded then we need to work out how we can find the systems which work and are consistent with the way the public uses digital material, technology and devices. My position, essentially, is that when you buy a broadband connection you are not using it to access your email, you are primarily using it to get content. What we should be doing is charging for use of music on the internet in an unobtrusive way.
We already do it on radio. People buy their BBC licence and one of the things it pays for is music, both in terms of employment of musicians and royalties. A lot of creative content is paid for by the BBC. We should be looking at a similar model for the internet.
>Will the act help stamp out piracy?
It might move P2P from unencrypted services to encrypted services and from major internet service providers (ISPs) to intranets. But if the major labels start suing people it will increase people’s hostility towards them and towards the music industry and will decrease the likelihood of people paying for music. And it will destroy revenue. The costs of administering the act will be phenomenal and that cost will rightly be stuck at the door of the industries who wanted it. It’s basically unenforceable.
Thanks to Strategy Eye and Sarah Vizard