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by Franki

If the recent news that a couple of big record companies in Australia have gone after two sysadmins for not stopping a customers BitTorrent site are any indication, record companies may soon go after Tim Berners-Lee, the guy that invented the World Wide Web, because it’s illegal use has resulted in most of the record company execs living below the poverty line. Or Perhaps they’ll go after Robert Kahn who is one of the guys who created TCP/IP, better known as the protocol on which the whole Internet relies. Surely he is massively responsible for creating the technology that steals all their hard won money.

The main problem appears to be that these guys need something or someone to blame for the slump in sales they all seem to be having of late. It would of course just be wrong for them to blame their own outmoded thinking and their desperate holding on to past business practises. I actually find it surprising that they’ve all managed to swap to CD’s without trying to find ways to make them illegal, (Though they have proposed a tax on blank media because they claim much of it is used by nasty pirates.)

They claim that piracy is ripping off the artists, but what they really mean to say is: “We as record companies, should be the only ones ripping off the artists”. Just take a look at contracts of any of the Australian Idol winners to get an idea of who’s making the “real” money here. The fact that their blank media “tax” against piracy has thus far failed to impress anybody in a position to help them, is perhaps why they are now going after anyone they think they can extort money from. Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad for the struggling new artists when their songs are passed around the net with no revenue for them, but the record companies really need to look at who is really to blame here. I don’t pirate music or video myself, but by the same token I don’t buy CD’s anymore either, mostly because I’m sick to death of the record companies blaming everyone else but themselves for their lacklustre performance. Due to their inability to guide the online industry, you can’t buy a song and play it on any music hardware, or even most hardware for that matter. They have allowed the online music industry to fragment into a dozen non compatible propriety formats and that alone is one of the big reasons why online music sales haven’t taken off they way they could have. The other reason is excessive money grabbing. They are pricing online music at the same price (or more) as buying the actual CD, even though there is no packaging or distribution costs involved. What most people don’t seem to have considered, is that online music probably doubles the record companies profit margins by massively cutting costs. They’d prefer you didn’t consider that while listening to their stories about how the poor artists are starving.

The question remains, is a creator to be blamed for users that infringe using their creations? Are admins the world over responsible for every little thing their users do? If so, where will that stop? Because using that theory, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Kahn are guilty has “heck”. The Sony betamax case was lost because it was found that there were legal uses for such technology, but the record companies are now desperately trying to re-try that case in a modern arena, apparently because the need to blame people for their own poor performance has risen to new highs. Consider this though, record companies have sued children, and dead people, with that sort of indiscriminate unscrupulous litigation, can it be long before they go after Tim and Robert? Who knows, once they realise that most piracy happens on Windows computers, perhaps they will have found a target (Microsoft) with deep enough pockets to fund their ‘avoid taking the blame’ campaign for a couple more years. Truth be told, I think the real reason they are all worried, is because the Internet will eventually be capable of removing most of the reasons one would need a record company in the first place. The idea that they will one day have to work for a living must have them waking up in cold sweats.

In a further example of idiocy, the supreme court has just ruled that P2P networks can be held liable for the infringments of their users. The fact that such technical innovation will now probably disapear apparently doesn’t worry the judges.

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