At Odds On File-Sharing

While the major record labels and many other commercial arms of the music industry are embracing Lord Mandelson’s get-tough stance on illegal file-sharing, some of the artists whose interests they purport to represent say the U.K. business secretary is being heavy-handed.

The Featured Artists Coalition, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and the Music Producers Guild believe that kicking file-sharers off the Internet may turn fans against music and the artists themselves.

Blur drummer Dave Rowntree, who is a member of FAC, said the organisation is against file-sharing but that previous attempts at legal action have alienated fans.

“We don’t want to make enemies of our fans,” he told BBC News. “The sensible thing to do is to try to see how we can monetise all this file-sharing activity, which is evidence of a lot of interest in music.”

Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, who is also on the FAC board, said Mandelson’s proposals are “a very heavy sledgehammer.”

“We’re concerned that, in an age where there is much greater competition for attention, these proposals are in danger of driving young people away from the idea of listening to music,” he explained.

He said many young fans discovered his music through file-sharing, and have paid for it in other ways, such as buying gig tickets.
“We should be encouraging people to become music fans, and whether we like it or not, illicit downloading does encourage people to become music fans.”

Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien said cutting off pirates’ Internet connections isn’t the answer and it’s unlikely to work.

British Phonographic Industry chief Geoff Taylor, whose organisation represents the record labels, says the government is right to consider temporary suspension as a last resort, where accounts are repeatedly used illegally despite warnings.

“Most people across the music sector recognise the serious damage that illegal file-sharing is doing to investment in new music,” he said.

BASCA head Patrick Rackow says sanctions would upset fans, rather than drive them toward legal services.