Friday, 5 October 2007

illegal file sharing or fighting for louis harkell's soul

I saw this story today on the BEEEEB about Jammie Thomas, who was fined £109,000 for illegal file sharing. Apart from making the record industry look even more reactionary than usual, it reminded me of a story in the Guardian. This was a few years ago and to my surprise there in inky print was the name of my good friend Louis Harkell:

“Louis Harkell was fined for downloading music from Kazaa.”

“The last email I expected from my parents while teaching in Thailand was one saying I'd been fined £2,500 for downloading music from Kazaa. I had roughly 1,000 tunes, which I had made available for upload. Uploading is what turned out to be the illegal action. Yet never does it say on Kazaa that what you are doing is illegal.”

Liar, liar, digital downloads on fire. Not about Kazaa failing to mention the legal ramifications but he certainly had more songs than that. Teaching? Teaching what, how to steal?

“Having broadband and Kazaa meant I had hundreds of thousands of tunes at my fingertips. I'd write a list of tunes I wanted, queue them up before I went to bed and have a whole new section of music in the morning. I totally re-educated myself musically. When you compare that to slogging about a music store to buy an album which costs £12 and which has only two or three tracks on that you like, it's hard not to see why so many people do it.”

Walking around the neon lit racks of a Virgin Megastore is certainly an experience I don’t miss. The few legal tracks I have bought in the past couple of years have been from i-Tunes. But their policy of only being able to authorise a track five times is insane and impractical.

If you truly want to fight piracy you have to provide a viable alternative. Sites like Last FM and Pandora Radio are indicators of where the big players should be heading. A service that is usually quite accurate in determining similar songs you might like based on complex algorithms is a good idea. Anything with algorithms is a good idea; think how scientific the word sounds, A-L-G-O-R-I-T-H-M-S.

“I certainly won't be downloading music again. I know my friends will be less sure too. I've been burnt badly. Yet this does not make me look kindly upon the music industry, who dominate the production of music, feeding us glammed-up dross and getting upset when people go looking for something different.”

I haven’t learned anything. I still sail the seven digital seas, looting and pillaging, arrrrr. But Louis is quite right; your time is over record companies. With the advent of digital distribution and marketing that can be accomplished by the band/group themselves, what place is there for you in the future, unless you innovate?

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