Musicians Squabble Over Filesharing

Filesharing continues to divide the U.K.’s music business and it’s becoming clear that even the musicians can’t agree on how the problem should be tackled.

Members of the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), which includes Annie Lennox, Billy Bragg, and Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, feel the government is being a bit heavy-handed to propose disconnecting filesharers from the Internet, while Sir Elton John and Lily Allen are among those who support a crackdown.

“I am of the view that the unchecked proliferation of illegal downloading (even on a ‘non-commercial’ basis) will have a seriously detrimental effect on musicians, and particularly young musicians and those composers who are not performing artists,” Sir Elton said in a letter to U.K. business secretary Lord Mandelson.

FAC took the rest of the music industry by surprise by publicly announcing it has “agreed to disagree” with labels over government proposals to suspend the Internet connections of persistent filesharers.

Apparently all sides including record companies and music lobby groups have been in frantic talks to reach a consensus in the few days before the government’s consultation draws to an end.

“We have negotiated in good faith with the labels all week, but they remain wedded to the idea of suspension of accounts,” read an FAC statement. “We remain steadfast in our belief that making threats against individual music fans is not an effective way to resolve any problems associated with filesharing.”

The Internet service providers and consumer groups share concerns over how such laws would be enforced, with the risk of the penalising innocent Internet users. But more and more artists are coming out in defense of legal measures, echoing labels’ comments that filesharing is hampering investment in new acts.

There are fears within the industry that the public divisions between artists could derail the long-running fight against piracy just when new laws are close.

Lily Allen has set up a blog titled “It’s Not Alright,” a reference to her first album Alright, Still, to collect the views of artists that support her contention that “filesharing is a disaster for new talent.”

She’s condemned Mason and fellow coalition member, Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, for implying “file sharing music is fine.”

“It probably is fine for them,” she said. “They do sellout arena tours and have the biggest Ferrari collections in the world.”

“I want to make it clear that I’m not after a fight with the Featured Artists Coalition – I want us artists to stand together on this – but they’ve released a new statement which just doesn’t make sense. The FAC seems to be viewing the government’s proposed legislation as an attack on freedom and liberty, but stealing’s not really a human right, is it?”

Now James Blunt has waded in. “Peter Mandelson is looking to engage the Internet service providers who, in my opinion, handle stolen goods, and should take much more responsibility,” he wrote in a letter to The Times.

The FAC says it’s been misinterpreted. It just feels there’s evidence to show that “repeat file-sharers of music are also repeat purchasers of music.”

It explained that its stance has been taken to “imply that it condones illicit file-sharing. It says this not the case and never has been.
“However, we seriously question the wisdom of seeking to deal with this problem by terminating the Internet connections of individual music fans.

“For those of us who don’t get played on the radio or mentioned in the music media … peer-to-peer recommendation is an important form of promotion.”