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Rory Cellan-Jones

Stephen Fry on copyright

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 13 Jul 09, 09:40 GMT

At an event in London last night, the writer, actor, and gadget fan Stephen Fry launched a surprisingly ferocious attack on the music and movie industries over the way they have acted to defend their copyright.

Stephen FryEven he seemed surprised, asking on Twitter as he left the stage: "Have I laid myself open to attack?" and: "Hope I'm not misunderstood. Such a pity if I get misrepresented as a 'help yourself and be a pirate' advocate."

After outlining the history of copyright, he went on to say that, in the entertainment industry's pursuit of the file-sharers, he suspects "that my business - the film business, the television business, the music business - is doing the wrong thing".

He described what he called the aggressive prosecution around the world of those who illegally download. It did no good, said Fry, to label these people as criminals.

He mocked "those preposterous" commercials on DVDs telling audiences "you wouldn't steal a handbag". He said he wanted to ask whether people in his industry are "so blind... as to think that someone who bit-torrents an episode of 24 is the same as someone who steals somebody's handbag".

There was more, much more.

Pirate Bay had been unjustly pursued, and the reputation of its founders had been smeared by the music industry. He himself had resorted to BitTorrent to get hold of a TV programme; mind you, it was an episode of House, featuring his old "partner in crime" Hugh Laurie, and he had already paid to download the series.

Sure, those who downloaded on an industrial scale for profit should be prosecuted - but if the price of downloads came down to a "fair" level, most people were pretty moral and would be happy to pay. He went on to compare the music industry to "big tobacco".

The event was the iTunes music festival - Fry was the warm-up act before a gig - and the young audience loved what they were hearing, with applause ringing out in the Roundhouse as he laid into the big corporations which profit from the current copyright arrangements. Corporations like Apple, the sponsors of the festival.

Stephen Fry is, of course, far too smart not to see the ironies inherent in a wealthy middle-aged celebrity coming over all rock 'n' roll and free love about the piracy issue - he conceded that many of his creature comforts had been acquired with the profits from products ring-fenced with copyright protection.

Someone in the audience pointed out that the tickets for the event told us that we were not allowed to use recording devices - an instruction ignored by just about everyone, with the encouragement of the man on stage. He admits that he isn't sure himself what he thinks about the protection of copyright, and has no easy answers.

So, how will the music and TV industries react to this attack? They may point out that some of what he said was inaccurate - the "Don't Steal a Handbag" adverts have been dropped, and the wave of prosecutions against individuals has subsided, replaced by a confrontation with ISPs.

At the Roundhouse, Stephen Fry was preaching to the converted, the generation that has got used to seeking out music and movies on the internet, and isn't entirely sure why you would pay to download. "Good to know there's a pro-free-download approving voice on the inside," was one Twitter comment after the event, though that wasn't precisely what he was saying.

But what would be interesting now is to hear Stephen Fry take his very entertaining act to a new audience - how about a gathering of the Featured Artists Coalition, the musicians fighting to defend copyright? Now that would be a good night out.

Update 1518: Well, maybe Stephen Fry will be taking his thoughts to the Featured Artists Coalition after all.

I've now been told that Billy Bragg, a member of the coalition (and guest on 5Live), has read this post, and says that he and his organisation are in complete agreement with Mr Fry: they too have no wish to see young file-sharers criminalised.

So perhaps a better night out would be a performance at the annual dinner of the BPI or another industry trade body.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I couldn't agree more!

    If anyone is interested in this issue, watch the lastest Steal This Film, it goes into a lot of depth and is very interesting. You can torrent it, fully legally, as it's not copyrighted.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again - the entertainment industry is just killing themselves. The public has even gone so far as to set up Pirate Parties all over the world - which are doing very well - to stop their crap at a government level!

  • Comment number 2.

    The comments I made about this time last year on this blog still stand - if you go into a shop and take something from the shelf, someone (the shop's budget or their insurance company) is very definitely suffering a loss.

    However, if you use a service to download something which you would otherwise just do without, the result is the same independent of the action taking place or not.

    For most people, I would imagine, a large proportion of their music (/film) collection was acquired for free on a "because I can" basis. Much of the downloaded music would not have been downloaded and paid for if it weren't downloaded for free. Therefore it CANNOT be said that every illegally downloaded track results in a 79p (or whatever) loss for the industry.

    If you have an 80GB iPod, and an MP3 is roughly ~3MB in size, that's roughly 27,306 tracks you can fit on the device (assuming it's the full 80GB i know... this is just a rough example). If those tracks cost 79p each then it would cost £21,572.26 to fill that device with music...... when they're marketing these devices as being able to hold tens of thousands of music tracks, I really don't think they could honestly say they expect the consumer to pay that much money to fill them with music and hope they don't get mugged....

    Spotify on the other hand... although not portable, it's pretty bloomin' wonderful if you ask me, and long may it continue!

  • Comment number 3.

    Since I didn't hear Stephen Fry's speech, it would be wrong to comment on Rory Cellan-Jones' reporting of Fry's speech. But there has to be a way to ensure that the authors and producers get a fair payment for their work. I'm reasonably content with paying around 80p for a downloaded music track although I suppose 50p per track would seem a fairer price.

    But we all have to contribute to the cost of the music/films we enjoy and the packaging costs are only a tiny fraction of the final cost of, say, a CD. So the remainder has to be covered some other way.

    A dilemma that has to be resolved.

  • Comment number 4.

    My kids spend more money on music than I ever did at their age, but they spend it on gigs, festivals, merchandise and not records. So what? The record companies are in the position of canal owners trying to the block the development of railways: yes, the new technology might be bad for _them_ but the government's job is pass laws to the common good, not to defend the exclusive rights of producer groups (like, for example, farmers).

    Stephen Fry is right to point out that the content industries have taken the wrong approach from the beginning.

  • Comment number 5.

    If the entertain industry continues to price itself into piracy then it will continue to suffer. What continues to gall the consumer is knowing people like the big bands and Paul McCartney are worth x-hundred million, and the poor punter is still expected to pay £15 for a new release CD/DVD that cost under a £1 to produce.

    In short, if the Entertainment Industry stopped its highway robbery, the consumer would stop pirating copies.

  • Comment number 6.

    Paul Freeman-Powell: yes, Spotify is fantastic, but it's stupid that it took so long for the music industry to embrace this type of technology, and it may very well be too little too late, especially since it dosen't seem they will stop calling their customers pirates anytime soon.

  • Comment number 7.

    Nice one Mr. Fry!
    I'm a computer programmer and can empathise with those whose profits depend on work invested into a project.
    However, I've always said that software, music and film 'piracy' is not theft.
    Theft involves someone taking your property away and claiming it for themselves so that you no longer have it so you suffer a definite and unfair loss.
    This form of 'piracy' does not involve a loss. You have exactly the same as you had before the download took place. What it does involve is you not making as much profit as you might have otherwise made - which is hardly the same thing - especially when you realise that most of the offenders would never have paid full price for the product and they only downloaded it because it was cheap or free.
    So in most cases there is no 'lost' profit to bemoan.
    The way to beat the pirates is to reduce your prices, provide 'taster' samples, and guarantee good quality downloads.

  • Comment number 8.

    It's interesting seeing roughly how the cost of a CD album breaks down into who gets what.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's interesting seeing roughly how the cost of a CD album breaks down into who gets what. I won't post links here, but the first two results of a UK search for "cd cost breakdown" are quite enlightening. The retailer and distributor appear to get the largest share, and the government don't do too badly either, collecting VAT at numerous stages in the manufacture and sale of the CD. However, due to a combination of different deals artists (and presumably songwriters if different - apparently there are people that write songs to order for a variety of different artists) make with the label, plus the different make-up of the bands themselves, the proportion of the CD cost that goes into artist and label profits is very unclear.

  • Comment number 10.

    I wonder if Fry would be so liberal on this issue if the (many) programmes that earn him his living were financed solely by being sold on an individual pay-per-view download basis, and a great many people downloaded them without paying?

    Given what Tim BL said in his recent speech at the BBC about TV channels disappearing as programmes are distributed and consumed via the web, this could one day become an issue for the BBC and other broadcasters.

  • Comment number 11.

    O/T - sorry about post 8, I must have pressed the wrong key combination when shuttling between browser tabs. If you can think of valid grounds for complaining about it, feel free to do so :)

  • Comment number 12.

    Say i was to download an album from iTunes...
    I could only play it on my ipod and computer (of which only works with itunes), i could give it only 5 friends, i would have no acsess to the files and there are no refunds.
    If i was to download it via bit torrent, limewire ect....
    Its free, i can have acsess to the files to share with my friends and i can play it on any device i want and through any program.
    Im not saying its okay to download using torrents, but using so much DRM on a product that can be quite easily obtained elsewhere wont work.

  • Comment number 13.

    Last week I wanted to watch a specific film. My dismal local hire shop Blockbuster didn't have it. So I thought "download it" I was happy to pay, same price as a rental. Could I find a UK site that would do that for me . No. How can the industry complain about illegal downloading when their own legal downloading is such rubbish.

  • Comment number 14.

    I feel I have to state a different opinion to most bloggers here. Consider value - if it has no value then why download it? If it has value then surely you should recognise it. An 80Gbyte IPOD full of songs you never listen to is worthless.

    While I 100% agree that downloading is not theft as theft implies loss and all the emotional impact that implies, consider if 100% of the population chose not to pay for movie content? The answer is clear, the movie industry would die and everyone would suffer. We are all starting to see this - I watch less and less television and listen to less and less music because its much lower quality than it used to be - there simply isnt the money to make good programs anymore (except, Ironically in the BBC).

    On the flip side, the media makers should also consider their value. It is the artist that creates the value and the internet has the ability to bring that value to the public with almost zero overhead.

    Rather than take entrenched us-and-them views let us find business models that work - in the limit pirating will kill our media just as surely as global warming will kill our planet, recognise it or loose it.

  • Comment number 15.

    I'd like it if Stephen could do a "Podgram" on his speech he made in the roundhouse, considering the last one he released was in December 2008 I think this topic is ripe for another podcast on his thoughts on the topic.

  • Comment number 16.

    "Nice one Mr. Fry!
    I'm a computer programmer and can empathise with those whose profits depend on work invested into a project.
    However, I've always said that software, music and film 'piracy' is not theft.
    Theft involves someone taking your property away and claiming it for themselves so that you no longer have it so you suffer a definite and unfair loss.
    This form of 'piracy' does not involve a loss. You have exactly the same as you had before the download took place. What it does involve is you not making as much profit as you might have otherwise made - which is hardly the same thing - especially when you realise that most of the offenders would never have paid full price for the product and they only downloaded it because it was cheap or free.
    So in most cases there is no 'lost' profit to bemoan.
    The way to beat the pirates is to reduce your prices, provide 'taster' samples, and guarantee good quality downloads."


    -----

    I fully agree with this point made by omegaDallion, in fact I've been saying it frequently here on these blogs.

    As a PC Gamer I've seen the demise of a playable demo of games in most cases, and by and large the companies cite costs and piracy as the excuse. As a PC gamer I need to know if x game will run on my machine, the only legal way to know these days is to buy the full version, in the case of many games, and shelling out £30 on a game just to find out the "recommended" specs which my system meets are not accurate is not on, so I frequently turn to what is deemed "illegal" means. And it is only "illegal" because the law is written in favour of business not the consumer.

    So in the case of video gaming on PCs "tasters", i.e. a demo and or a reduction in prices would be very welcome, either that or a re-write of the "law" to allow consumers to download full games as a "try before you buy" service.

    As for the music industry, yes they could definitely reduce prices, here in the UK we pay sometimes twice what the US pay for an album, and in the case of less mainstream artists such as my favourites Iron Maiden, who still make a huge fortune from gigs anyway, we pay nearly 3 times as much as other countries.

    The media industry on the whole need to have 1, and only 1 price for all content no matter who they are selling it to and where those "customers" may be, not 1 price for the US, 1 price for the UK, and yet another price for Outer Mongolia!

    Not only that but simultaneous releasing of tv shows/movies, be it in the cinema on tv or via download should become the norm, I'm sick of seeing shows, such as House, which I'm glad to see Mr Fry has commented on having downloaded illegally, released at one time in the US and then at a later, undisclosed, date here in the UK.

    I applaud Mr Fry for his comments and sincerely wish that other "celebs" come out and support his views. The one thing "celebs" are useful for and can do in this world is change the way their industry works.

  • Comment number 17.

    I fear the Squishysdomain (#14) is somewhat missing the point about 'value'. Quite apart from the different subjective values that different people might put on the same piece of content (which is a whole different argument in its own right), the inherent 'value' of the products we're talking about here is not just about the content itself but several other factors such as convenience of access, quality of reproduction, timeliness of availability, and probably a few others I've missed.
    I don't think anyone here is advocating "100% of the population choos[ing] not to pay for movie content" - but that the industry gets a lot smarter with its value proposition and therefore commercial model.
    For example, high speed broadband has recently been opened up a whole new delivery channel for movies. What are the benefits of this new channel to market?... Reduction in physical media production costs, a vast reduction in distribution and retailer overheads (and potentially time-to-market); and for many consumers convenience of access could be a major benefit.
    So as a media company, you could give users what they want (e.g. convenience) but for a much lower unit cost. Yes for some strange reason, a Season Pass for 'House' on iTunes is still just about the same price as the DVD box set. And, as an aside, just to add insult to injury, we're expected to pay these high prices for the digial download straight after it's just been digitally beamed to my Sky+HD box for 'free' [I know, I know... not 'free', but perhaps zero incremental cost].
    So I really do think that the main issue here has nothing to do with consumer 'recognising the value' of the product, but - and on this I think we agree - aligning the commercial value proposition more closely to what most people think is 'fair'.

  • Comment number 18.

    My biggest gripe is that 10-15 years ago when i was still a kid, (and i mean 8-13) no-one batted an eye-lid when you stuck a tape in the video and recorded a series week on week and then had a collection (My Nan still does). But now in the digital age where content is more accessible i cannot download an episode of 24 or House without paying extortionate iTunes fees. Or waiting for it to arrive on extortionate SKY TV or sometimes Freeview, MONTHS before it arrives in the UK (This is not always the Case, in fact 24 was a week behind the US this year)

    More-so why can i not download Torchwood which aired last week so i can watch it at my own leisure and in its entirety at a time when i choose. Which i have already paid a Huge license fee for, but no-one would say a word if i bought a DVD recorder and put a disk in to record it (is this piracy?)

    I always took piracy to be the Bloke down the pub, who sold dodgy DVDs someone who is copying a film then making multiple copies and making big big profits on it. These are the people the government, the ISP's and the Industry should be going after. Not the people who have busy lives or want to watch something when they feel like it, or the kids in the bedrooms, who share a song with their mates, Like the artist then go out and spend hundreds of pounds on iTunes, Tickets and Merchandise to make their Artists Famous...

  • Comment number 19.

    @18 you have a very good point. You are not expected to pay for TV shows when you watch or even record them from the TV - and in the case of the BBC our taxes fund the damn thing - but yet we are expected to pay for downloads!

    Paying for TV shows is stupid. TV channels get their money from ads, the BBC gets it's money from us. We should not need to pay to download them.

    Another stupid thing is how ripping CDs and DVDs you own for private use is actually illegal! It's utterly ridiculous and it shows how outdated the copyright laws are.

    Guess what? I rip DVDs I paid for so I can watch them on my phone, because having to BUY THE SAME THING AGAIN just to watch it on another device is stupid and pointless.

  • Comment number 20.

    Whooa...Stephen Fry....rock n' roll or what?

    Having spent much of my youth enriching major record companies (if an album cost 12 pounds in 1975 just think what the equivalent DVD cost would be now if the companies had simply followed inflation...anyway, it was worth it because the music was much better in those days....yawn etc etc!), it's difficult to get overly upset over people making the odd illicit download. Is it morally any different from taping your mates records onto cassette tapes? I don't think so.

    In this sense Stephen Fry is correct. The alternative view is that Stephen, through his own talent (and, as he admits, the existing copyright laws) has made a great deal of money from his own creativity...all power to his elbow. He is entitled to be relaxed about money matters. What about however the people who are scratching a living at the peripheries of the creative sphere? Aren't they allowed to make a living from their own creativity? I know a musician (he's even fairly well known in some circles) who has released four albums but relies on live performances and producing for his living, which in turn has to be boosted by restoring houses in his spare time. He is not living the high life at the expense of the hard-pressed fan. I know a writer who told me that when you add up the hours of work involved, the reward for your creativity is often less than the minimum wage.

    A depressing byproduct of the digital age has been the enrichment of the technician at the expense of the artist. People as a result are perversely prepared to pay 300 pounds for a digital device slapped together in China for a few dollars, then be outraged at the idea of paying a tenner to buy some music to listen to on it! This does not make sense. When I was buying records, Kudos lay in your musical taste, not solely in the device that you used to play it on!

    The copyright argument however goes well beyond illegal downloads. Plagiarism is rife...mainstream even! The wholesale copying, remixing, redrafting and crucially, reselling of original material has become morally acceptable to the digital generation. Anyone can write their own (badly researched or partisan) version of history on Wikipedia, anyone can publish their own version of Great Expectations with a happy ending; and for what?

    It is a well worn but nonetheless true argument that with "content" increasingly regarded as free, there can be no place left for the professional creative. Sure, your world will be dominated by a handful of Stephen Frys, John Grishams, Coldplays etc etc but it will be virtually impossible for emerging, genuinely talented people to get an audience and, crucially, earn a living at what they do. But of course it will all migrate to the internet where anyone can have a go and gain instant fame on You-Tube (anyone remember the sad Romanian teenager singing into the camera in his bedroom?). The problem will surely arise when the "audience", deprived of the A&R men, the literary agents and publishers and all the other traditional filters that are being digitally erased, comes to search for new talent and is faced by the challenge of find the diamond in the rough. The digital age has not increased the number of talented people but it will certainly make it hard to find them in the ocean of crud and mediocrity posted on the web.

  • Comment number 21.

    Thanks to brandycmc for his comments on my comments - I think you will find that we are in violent agreement!

    It seemed my daughters ex-boyfriend downloaded every single movie and every single song and every single computer game/piece of software without a care and he's not alone. Indeed I was told he payed a subscriptions to a "wares" site in order to do this. That, I believe, is wrong! I am also an avid computer gamer/pc user and film watcher but I choose to pay for everything even though I'm clever enough to find it for free if I wanted to.

    Personally PC games at 30 quid for 200hours of game play seem like good value to me, much better value than a DVD I watch just onc! Indeed the subscription based online multiplayer game genre could teach the music industry a thing or too - why not, instead of 90p per song, charge 5p every time you play it. That way good songs would earn lots of revenue and bad songs less. Similarly with movies, charge 1GBP for the first view and 30p for each subsequent viewing - the quantity of movies would go down but the quality would go up!

    There are many posters here who say why should I pay if I can get it for free. My point was that nothing is free, and if we don't pay (a fair price), thats exactly what we will end up with - Nothing!

  • Comment number 22.

    "It is a well worn but nonetheless true argument that with "content" increasingly regarded as free, there can be no place left for the professional creative. Sure, your world will be dominated by a handful of Stephen Frys, John Grishams, Coldplays etc etc but it will be virtually impossible for emerging, genuinely talented people to get an audience and, crucially, earn a living at what they do. But of course it will all migrate to the internet where anyone can have a go and gain instant fame on You-Tube (anyone remember the sad Romanian teenager singing into the camera in his bedroom?). The problem will surely arise when the "audience", deprived of the A&R men, the literary agents and publishers and all the other traditional filters that are being digitally erased, comes to search for new talent and is faced by the challenge of find the diamond in the rough. The digital age has not increased the number of talented people but it will certainly make it hard to find them in the ocean of crud and mediocrity posted on the web."

    ----

    I'd rather a few Stephen Frys, John Grishams, Coldplays (well maybe not Coldplay, rather Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath) than a million A&R men, literary agents, etc. Even if it means emerging talent struggles to get on "the ladder".

    In recent years we've seen a boom in "talent" due to shows such as X-Factor, Pop Idol and other similar "talent" shows and the success of "artists" such as Britney Spears and the many boy/girl bands have also contributed to many "clones" of their type of "artist".

    And to be honest it's hard enough to find the diamond in the crud we have now let alone if the A&R men get "erased" by the digital age.

  • Comment number 23.

    'the "Don't Steal a Handbag" adverts have been dropped' - Great. So when will the media companies come and remove them from my DVDs, so that I can watch the films I've paid for without being lectured like a naughty schoolboy?

  • Comment number 24.

    "Paying for TV shows is stupid. TV channels get their money from ads, the BBC gets it's money from us. We should not need to pay to download them."

    Of course if BBC Worldwide could no longer sell those TV Shows, either the license fee would need to go up, or they would have to produce less TV shows. I could see an argument about making iPlayer to UK ISPs more comprehensive, even possibly ending up being a complete library. Making them openly downloadable doesn't seem such a good idea though.

    "The media industry on the whole need to have 1, and only 1 price for all content no matter who they are selling it to and where those "customers" may be, not 1 price for the US, 1 price for the UK, and yet another price for Outer Mongolia!"

    I can see an argument for some of this - PPP being so different in some countries that what is a reasonable price in one location, is exorbitant in others. Probably all developed countries should have the same price though.

  • Comment number 25.

    For me it comes down to price and quality and above all else flexibility.

    If I buy an album I want to play it at home, on my computer - actually on any computer in my home network and in the car. I want to play it in the right format (MP3 is fine for the car, mediocre on a decent set of speakers so I need a lossless format as well). Legal downloads do not give me that flexibility for a single price.

    Movies are worse. Blueray is massively overpriced (good example - harry Potter boxed set films 1-5 £32 for DVD £50 for blueray) and only now are DVDs coming down to a reasonable price. Happy to pay £5 maybe even £7 for a physical DVD, but if I want to download I would expect the price to be much lower (after all not paying for packaging, distribution etc) but I want to watch it anywhere, at home, on a laptop in various formats (I use the PSP for my daughter - works a treat on long journeys and she can play games - pretty simple to rip into PSP format).

    As Fry says the industry has come about it the wrong way - desperate to keep control and keep high prices

  • Comment number 26.

    The problem with digital rights management, in particular, is the cynical and manipulative way in which it has already been used by the Entertainments Industry. The reason everyone knows the "You wouldn't steal a handbag" advert, is that the rights owners FORCED people to sit through it (just as they will force you to sit through endless trailers at the start of a DVD, if you want to actually watch the film you wanted to see). There is no legitimate way of reaching the content you wished to use, without consenting to being advertised at, because the maker of your player had actively coluded with the Entertainments Industry to prevent that option. You have to rip the DVD, and remove the trailers using third party software (software I'm sure the Entertainments Industry would like to see banned).

    It's as if they wished to provide a sneak preview of the kind of things they would do if they had unfettered access to how you used your (sorry THEIR) media. Such artificial obstacles actually encourage people to start hacking the machine. The ripped off file ends up being more versatile, and easier to use, than the paid-for version. What other industry offers its customers a deliberately broken version of its product? It's like hiding all the biros because you have a hundred years invvested in making quill pens.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    Those of us who compose for a living, pay our rent and mortgages, gas and electricity bills by using our years of experience, are being turned into the villains.

    I read a post the other day from a young girl who said "It is my right to download anything I like for free, and the record companies are messing with my rights as a human being. They can go jump." Actually, she was a little less polite. All the following posts agreed with her.

    Well, this is the problem. Music, films, TV progs, books and so on are not a "right." They are products, and nothing more.

    No one ever questions Warbarton's right to sell their bread, and to prosecute someone for stealing it, so why do people say I have no right to sell my product? That I have to let people have it for nothing simply because they can just take it anyway?

    Yes, the record companies are heavy handed over this, but they are only part of the industry.

    A few years ago, I wrote a piece of music for a client. The next thing I knew, another company had ripped it off and was using for their advert in Saudi Arabia. There was nothing I could do. There was no copyright treaty with Saudi at that time, and the company just laughed at me saying, "we can do what we like - tough." I am a one man company - what hope do I have of suing people?

    Well, that was what that young girl was saying. Except she also thinks it is some god-given right to do what she likes and tell me to stuff it.

    When people criticise the industry, they forget that this is the attitude that we contend with - not some armchair liberal like Stephen Fry, but the hundreds of thousands of young people out there who just laugh and tell us to go jump.

    They want free music? Well, I suggest they learn to play an instrument and write their own!

  • Comment number 29.

    On the topic of DRM, it was doomed from the beginning.

    Your average "pirate" will think "why would I pay for something I can't use on all my devices or use when I get a new computer when I can get the same thing for free and do anything I want with it?" and because of this line of thought, DRM actually increased piracy.

  • Comment number 30.

    I'd be interested to see what would happen if there was such a thing as a 'piracy amnesty site', by which I mean a place you could make donations targeted to the artist/production house whose wares you'd already ripped off.

    If Radiohead can do well off of honesty, I'm pretty sure there are many UK fans of Battlestar Galactica (who downloaded the torrents rather than wait for the UK release) that would rather make a donation direct to the producers, the SciFi channel, rather than pay a premium for DVDs they don't need or on Apple iTunes to pay a premium for data services they don't need.

    Yeah, cut out the middle men who skim a fortune by insisting we buy things we don't even need and which are of no benefit to the actual creatives behind the work anyway.

    "You wouldn't steal a handbag"?
    You wouldn't buy (a cheap photocopy of) a handbag if it came in a box that tripled the cost just to line the pockets of a greedy middle man either.

  • Comment number 31.

    @ravenmorpheus - The issue of pricing differently country to country will always be contentious when people work purely on exchange rates!!!

    Yes 1GBP might equal 1.6USD so if a song costs 1 GBP in the UK and 1 USD in the US it would appear that the song is more expensive in the UK.

    If you forget about exchange rates however and think only about 'units of currency' (UOC) then in both countries the song costs 1 UOC so the price is the same.

    I can tell you from personal experience that salaries between the UK and US work like this as my wife earns pretty much the same number of UOC in the US as she did in the UK so for her a song from iTunes costs exactly the same! 'Standardise' the pricing and she'd be paying 1 UOC in the US but only 0.6 UOC in the UK so suddenly everything would be cheaper in the UK!

  • Comment number 32.

    "Yeah, cut out the middle men who skim a fortune by insisting we buy things we don't even need and which are of no benefit to the actual creatives behind the work anyway."

    In the interests of balance then, why not cut out the swathes of nerds who charge a fortune for technical features on digital devices that few use and fewer understand. Oh, and cut out the marketing men who insist on reissuing virtually the same device every three months with some newer, ever more marginal "benefit".

    Surely the point here is that people are outraged at the idea of paying almost anything for content yet will happily be ripped off frontways, sideways and backwards by the techies to buy their latest little slab of plastic

  • Comment number 33.

    there's a brilliant artist who has illustrated this very stephen fry tweet. so check out fry as a pirate. it is brilliant.

    http://www.morganritchie.com

    also on twitter http://www.twitter.com/morganritchie

  • Comment number 34.

    28. At 4:28pm on 13 Jul 2009, Gurubear wrote:
    this is the attitude that we contend with - not some armchair liberal like Stephen Fry,


    It is my experience that there are those, like Mr. Fry, who are quite happy with being at one 'wiv da yoof' so long as their pockets are not the ones at stake.

    This is not the first time our luvvie national treasure has strayed beyond the core areas his considerable talents are best applied to, and with about the same result... to his credibility, the argument he seems to think he can contribute to, and the interests of those whose lives outside a cosy bubble he seems to know little of, or care about.

  • Comment number 35.

    I think the crucial issue is the "wasn't going to buy it anyway" point that has been made. Most people are on a fixed budget and simply can never buy all the music, films, TV shows and computer games they'd like to. I can see from here a shelf full of my CD's, 3 of DVD's, 1 of PC games, 1 of Xbox games, 1 of Wii games and 1 of Xbox 360 games.
    Nevertheless I merrily watch or download TV and film on the web when the fancy takes me, or pull down an album I heard about. If the fat cats get their way and this becomes impossible I guess I'll just go back to taping the telly or copying a mate's album.
    Far too much of the cost of a DVD or album goes to corporate giants whose main contribution to my entertainment is to cut shows I love or sign up another pop clone I loathe. When we're talking about major shows, films or bands I'm comfortable that the 'talent' can survive without my royalties a whole lot better than I can survive paying for everything I consume.

  • Comment number 36.

    that's 'film industries' to you, sunshine...

  • Comment number 37.

    @32 Anglophone

    "Surely the point here is that people are outraged at the idea of paying almost anything for content yet will happily be ripped off frontways, sideways and backwards by the techies to buy their latest little slab of plastic"

    I don't relate to that type of consumer (it took me 5 years to bother replacing my first mobile phone), so I can't really comment.

    Mixing fashion with hard to recycle objects that often end up in landfill always struck me as absurd, as does 'built in obsolescence' as they politely refer to stuff designed to break 5 mins after the warranty expires, and indeed many other sick constructions of the capitalist system.

    The point is, nobody makes people buy the same gadget repeatedly. If it comes out again with a minimal improvement, let someone else who aint got one buy it.

    Buying unique media without the overheads of a bundle of plastic/card, distribution costs, etc, plus wages to pay the operators of these pointless extras is harder.

    Doing this whilst honestly supporting the artist is something these middlemen will always have a vested interest in preventing.

  • Comment number 38.

    It is heartening that there are some sensible voices in this forum that recognise that artists and producers should not have to beg for a living. Stephen is a nice and able man, but for someone who made his first fortune with a reheated version of Me and My Girl, it is a bit rich to be knocking copyright.

    A few facts, which will no doubt continue to be ignored in this debate. The film industry NEVER asserts that each act of pirate consumption is a lost sale. It undertakes very careful research to try to estimate the "cannibalisation" of sales in each form of consumption. If you are interested in the truth, take a look at the statistics on the UK Film Council web site: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    The film industry DOES NOT prosecute UK consumers for downloading. Nor, for that matter, does the UK record industry. The record industry took some civil cases a while back. So far as I know they are not doing so at present.

    At the simplest level this is about jobs and being a first-world, knowledge economy. The problem with celebrity comments of this sort is that they are pulling the ladder up after they have made it to the top, while burnishing their own not-for-profit credentials.

  • Comment number 39.

    I think anyone saying there is no room for creatives now in a digital age are kidding themselves. The most successful debut album ever here in britain was by the Arctic Monkey's a band who gave away all the demo's of the songs that made the album. They are proof that people will pay legally for things they liked and even downloaded illegally. It was the reason they becamse such a huge band and there have been a good few cases of new artist using it to make a breakthrough! Myspace music is a perfect example of this.

    I am someone who loves music and i spend a fair bit of my disposable income on cd's and vinyl because i want to support the artists, but i do download some albums i am unsure about or new bands to find out whats new and exciting. We can't all download everything for free as then people lose their jobs, there is no support for music, films, books or anything else creative but a few illegal downloads do not make anyone the devil. It's the ridiculous price fixing of the last 15 years (something the major labels were pulled up for 4 years ago) that has hurt the industry so badly. Itunes downloads are a rip off, a cd is only a few pounds more and for that you get freedom of choice of where it goes and if your pc is wrecked you won't lose all your files (i know almost everything can be saved, but it can happen).

  • Comment number 40.

    I totally agree with him. I badly want to see 24 season 7. I don't have Sky. So I could either wait until the DVD is released, or download it legally right now.

    I'm waiting, but it's outrageous that people who want to be legit loose out and have to wait longer. I suspect the greedy film studios want it out in time for Christmas so they can cash in as much as possible. I'd happily pay £20 for it now, I even remember paying £70 for X-Files box-sets back in 2004, now they're £16.99!

    Sort it out!

  • Comment number 41.

    ArmchairPro wrote:

    I think the crucial issue is the "wasn't going to buy it anyway" point that has been made. Most people are on a fixed budget and simply can never buy all the music, films, TV shows and computer games they'd like to.

    ###

    I bought my first single in the late sixties - it was a second hand copy of See Emily Play by Pink Floyd. I was young enough that my Dad went with me.

    I think I bought my second single two years later.

    And that was the fun of it!! When I managed to make it to teenage hood and my meagre income allowed me a little more freedom to buy, then there was real excitement at saving up for an album that I really, really wanted and rushing down to our local record shop to buy it.

    Things that were important to our selfish selves we saved for, and really got a big kick out of it when we reached our goal.

    This was especially true of the album lovers. Woolworths in the 70s made a big thing of cheap singles, and the kids that liked the Disco Pap that was beginning to take over spend hours buying as much as they could. Those of us who loved the more serious (maybe pretentious) bands did not benefit from discounts, we had to get second jobs!

    Now, the kids just take it when they want it. No excitement, no feeling of expectation, no annoying jealously when the rich kid down the road got it first; just "want it, grab it, throw it away."

    That is where we have ended up.

    And people are actually arguing for this sort of ideal???

  • Comment number 42.

    Good on SF to have the bottle to come out with this in front of the industry itself. I'm hoping it won't lose him the place of 'ambassador' of the friendly face of geekism; he speaks a lot of sense. Hopefully it will make a tiny step in the defence of small-scale downloaders, against profiteers.

  • Comment number 43.

    There is so much confusion and hypocrisy about this issue-it's almost impossible to give fair comment. On the Audio front we were promised perfect audio forever with CD-what we got was the industry selling us stuff we had already on our records. Along came file share-then a few years later Apple decided to sell us low quality Audio through MP3-and shut down file sharers. Back in April this year You Tube had a face lift and as a result it's now possible to download every clip as an MP4 file. Why? Because MP4 files will be traded-and in order to set the market in motion they need to create demand- and what better way than to use all the people who post home made clips of their music on you tube. Eventually someone will buy a "clip" (MP4) of a recording of an LP which the You Tuber did originally to compare his LP to his CD !
    Recently a 7 inch Single "Frankie Beverley's If that's what you wanted" (search You Tube) sold for £18K-how much of that money went to Mr Beverley-non.....

    If you want answers I'm fresh out but suggestions such as a levy on second hand sales of records tapes and CD's-and a levy on ISP's might help. Other than that Artists need to develop new ways of adding value to product-and take control of distribution.

    As for the industry-I have managed to get a lot of product removed from one click web hosters (I have done this for friends who asked me-as they had small CD runs on indie labels). It wasn't that hard to do-why doesn't the industry do it-can't they type into Google?

  • Comment number 44.

    I frequently cannot find the music I like, either on CD or legal download, so I have little choice but the illegal route. If I like what I download, I mark it as "dodgy", and keep an eye out for a legal copy, which I then buy. The case for my defense rests.

    I would be quite happy for sites such as Pirate Bay to charge me, giving the appropriate money to the artists. Make this optional, then you have a clear case going after those who chose not to pay. Since such sites currently run without charging, presumably the lion's share of the price would go to the artists, something which I would enjoy tremendously.

  • Comment number 45.

    "A few facts, which will no doubt continue to be ignored in this debate. The film industry NEVER asserts that each act of pirate consumption is a lost sale. It undertakes very careful research to try to estimate the "cannibalisation" of sales in each form of consumption."

    No matter how careful their research is, it is IMPOSSIBLE to see how many sales would have been made without the downloads.

    There have also been MANY cases where the entertainment industry incorrectly counts every download as a lost sale.

  • Comment number 46.

    @41 - you are failing to look at the bigger picture, though. The recording industry is constantly fighting new technology at the expense of it's consumors.

    Everything changes, everything moves on, everything gets replaced. Weather you in perticular like it or not does not matter, it's progress, and good progess as the majority of people like it too.

  • Comment number 47.

    The music industry, at least, has ONLY itself to blame. The day they began legal action against Napster was the day they lost; they went for YEARS without an online business model for a digital medium, and so deserved to go bust. Their lame excuse for this, DRM protection, was doomed to failure from the start, as it was always going to be possible to play and re-record the "protected" song.

    To this day, they continue to come up with bizarre numbers, in the billions, which they claim to be the "cost of copyright violations". These often total £10000 or more per year per average household; quite where they're expecting this money to come from, and where they're expecting people to store so many DVDs is anyone's guess.

    That's just the music industry. In TV land, they're still stuck on local rights issues in a globalized market(see the BBCs iplayer) and as for the movies.... yikes. The movie industry STILL doesn't have a legal download service. WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?! If I want to download the latest movies and TV shows, I should be able to. I don't mind paying a few quid extra for good quality. But the fact they won't even allow legal downloads, and THEN complain about illegal downloads... they really need to sort their business model out.

  • Comment number 48.

    22 Ravenmorpheus

    "I'd rather a few Stephen Frys, John Grishams, Coldplays (well maybe not Coldplay, rather Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath) than a million A&R men, literary agents, etc. Even if it means emerging talent struggles to get on "the ladder". In recent years we've seen a boom in "talent" due to shows such as X-Factor, Pop Idol and other similar "talent" shows and the success of "artists" such as Britney Spears and the many boy/girl bands have also contributed to many "clones" of their type of "artist". And to be honest it's hard enough to find the diamond in the crud we have now let alone if the A&R men get "erased" by the digital age."

    Iron Maiden...oh dear! I agree that there is a flow of errr...artistes coming through the TV talent show route but I would really argue that these people are on these shows in the first place because a) they are exploitable for short term gain and b) traditional A&R wouldn't touch them with a barge-pole. Photogenic "diva" types who can belt out cover-versions of others material are pleasant enough but are very modest talents compared to genuinely creative performers. Unfortunates like Susan Boyle can sing nicely but have no credibility beyond the sympathetic "wow, isn't it amazing that someone like that can sing" factor. Obviously to disprove my point, Britain's Got Talent was won, justifiably, by a troupe of dancers who were good but, crucially, were led by a genuinely gifted choreographer...but beyond that there wasn't a singer/performer in the whole thing that you could see lasting more than a couple of seasons on Simon Cowell's "Squeeze 'em Dry" roadshow.

    The point stands. Where is the MoTown, Stax Records, Island Records or the Stiff Records of the digital age? Where is the role for the savvy risk-takers who have the knack of spotting and signing the best creative talent around and offering it up for public consumption? What's left of record companies simply become highly risk-averse and pump out a limited diet of Coldplay or, just for you, The Best of Black Sabbath, but beyond that it will be up to the music fan to spend their evenings trawling through the Singing Romanian Teenager videos on YouTube or MySpace. I'd almost rather listen to Iron Maiden.

  • Comment number 49.

    regarding:

    The point stands. Where is the MoTown, Stax Records, Island Records or the Stiff Records of the digital age? Where is the role for the savvy risk-takers who have the knack of spotting and signing the best creative talent around and offering it up for public consumption?
    ........................................................
    Well things have changed-across a few fronts. It's now possible to record music at a fraction of the cost as it did in the days of say Island Records. Motown was a hit factory-it took and exploited talent on a grand scale-for every Stevie Wonder getting a huge advance for "Songs in the Key of Life"-there was a David Ruffin-a Florence Ballard. Lamont Dozier singed away the rights for all his Motown songs for a fraction of what they made. The golden age wasn't quite as golden as it's painted out to be.

    Two modern day examples of a newer approach are CD Baby-(a home of independent music) and it's Sister Company Amiestreet-which gives away free legal music. Traxsource deals directly with some artists-bypassing even the CD stage. You make your house track mix it down to a high encode MP3 and sell it directly. Soundclick is another example of this new approach.

    I'll admit though that there are huge problems-the Torrent network is nothing compared to Web Hosters. Blog have replaced Radio as a primary source of music-read about it-click on download it-for free. This isn't good for music-but the cat is out of the bag-the horse has bolted (yadda yadda)

    Piracy exists in marketplaces where CDRs/DVD's are sold-you deal with the problem where the money is. How can anyone police the internet when they can't even send a trading standards officer down the local market?

  • Comment number 50.

    Interesting that he should do this at the iTunes music festival. Apple is one of the most aggressive DRM backers/record industry enablers in the world, and its known Fry is a huge Apple fan.

  • Comment number 51.


    Like another poster here, i'm a one man show, writing classical music. I'm just as disgusted with the greed, and belligerent monopolisitc business the recording coporates are desperately trying to maintain.

    They don't represent me, as a composer and writer, and they never did. You could quite cheerfully justify locking most of them up, as criminals exploiting the public, and the cartel they collectively employ to keep the prices up.

    But as a one man show, i have a challenge here. I sell my music online only. Do i tell the public quite clearly i'm on my own? Will they view that as me doing my own thing, or a clumsy attempt to invoke sympathy? (The first one is accurate.)
    I have free samples, recorded as lofi versions, so the public can listen to what i do, and decide for themselves if it's worth paying for a hifi version. (and it's not a lot of money to do this at all. The equivalent of 50p a tune)
    Am i a sucker, will the public see me as "part of the ripoff", or will they be willing to pay a small price to listen to something they might enjoy, and can download onto any listening device they want, or listen online in their "account", whenever they wish. (So i'm even storing it for them, so they don't have to fill up the HD.)
    The problem has been on both sides. The recording industry's greed not only shot them in the foot, it shot us indy's as well, as much of the public decides that a musician is part of the system, and not an individual trying to make a modest living from his or her talents.

    Try telling a politician or a record exec from the big 4 they should be paid, if they're good enough, through a "pay if you like" system on a website, and see what sort of response you get.

    I'm tired of being tarred with the same brush as the corporates, and some greedy artists who, in many cases, use someone else's music to get rich, while the writer remains poor. That sucks, and so do they. That's not creativity on their part, it's just production, and often little to do with talent.

    There are those who will always just take something without paying for it, because they've justified it in their heads that it's ok, or worse, cool to rip someone off. That happens, and life goes on. But i urge everyone to make a clear definition between the corporates, agents,lawyers, and politicians who continue to prop up this failing business model, from those who's intent is simply to write, and make a modest living from their talents. Not every musician or writer is clamouring to be signed up with a record corporate, on the contrary, many don't want to have any association at all with the record companies, and make the effort to reinforce the distinction. So when you download something from the big 4, i'm not particularly bothered, to be honest. When you D/L something from a one man show, or a local band, or someone somewhere who isn't part of the corporate system, then your decision to steal is felt more significantly. Try growing some integrity and vote with your cash. If you starve the corporates, then there will be more indy's out there who will have to get your attention with talent, and are likely to be worth the modest sum they'll ask for their hard work. 50 or 25p to an indy goes a lot further than the same to keeping record execs in caviar and champagne for lunch every day.

    And i can assure you the returns for indys are modest enough already, so the extra honest contribution will be much appreciated.

    I can also thoroughly agree with the poster who said adding up the hours would fall below the minimum wage. That's certainly true.

    But we decided to take this journey, so complaining about it won't wash.

  • Comment number 52.

    A downloaded MP3 is not the same as a song on a CD, it's a mere approximation. I'd happily pay for lossless downloads, including cover artwork, lyrics, etc. And for these downloads to NOT be encased in any software which prevents me listening to what I've paid for. There's the matter of taste, also; I prefer quite obscure, underground, independant music to the mainstream slop, but download stores cater almost exclusively to the vapid mainstream dreck.

    I happily own up to downloading loads of music. Most of which I have on vinyl and refuse to repurchase on CD, or obscure out-of-print titles.
    I barely have room for more physical copies of recorded music, because I spent my life giving my money to independant records shops.

    One solution is to follow what mine and my friends' bands do - give your music away. I've played in bands and recorded loads of music on my own(albeit of limited commercial appeal, but quite similar to other bands who manage sales into the thousands) and have never made a penny from any of it, even when we've paid to press vinyl records, I've given away all of my copies for free.
    Pay the bills with.... a job! It's not difficult.

  • Comment number 53.

    49 Johns101

    I'm under no illusions that many artists in the so-called golden age of pop weren't screwed sideways by their pop-factory stablemasters. The situation did improve later when bands and management became a lot more savvy about keeping the lions share of the money for themselves, mostly by recording and performing their own material rather than simply being a pretty face putting over some anonymous songwriter's material...the manufactured pap-band goes back to Monkees and beyond

    Either way, the crucial difference was that, screwed or not, those artistes did get their moment in the sun...they actually got their art out there to be heard by a wide audience. It was that audience who then decided who succeeded or failed simply by buying the records. The average aspirant now is reduced to posting their material online, then hoping that some loner in their bedroom will stumble across it, then factor in the remote possibility that this person has any friends to tell about it to!

  • Comment number 54.

    Although I'll admit to downloading stuff for free, I completely agree that ultimately artists should get paid for their music. (I justify it to myself that I only download music from artists who are already rich, and they if I download some of their stuff for free I'm more likely to buy a concert ticket or a CD of theirs). Otherwise, if nobody bought their music, then they might not be able to make a living as a musician and then there's no more music from them ever again!

    The industry has totally dropped the ball with this though. DRM is horrible - if I've paid for music from iTunes, why can't I play it on whichever devices, software or computers I want, since I (should) own the mp3?! Instead, it becomes more tempting to download something for free that you can do what you want with, instead of paying for the same thing but where you're locked into using a certain brand of music player etc.
    The old "you wouldn't steal a handbag" ads just shows how out of touch they were - patronising the very people who'd paid for their products!

    I don't know what the solution is though, it's a tough one. That said, I've barely downloaded any music (free or otherwise) since I've been using Spotify. Maybe streaming is the way forward...if only they can start making money from it...

  • Comment number 55.

    50 - Apple is not a "DRM backer", none of their music has DRM anymore and the only reason Jobs put it there in the first place was to make the labels happy to they could sign deals.

    Jobs has spoken against DRM a lot.

  • Comment number 56.

    "The movie industry STILL doesn't have a legal download service. WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?! If I want to download the latest movies and TV shows, I should be able to. I don't mind paying a few quid extra for good quality. But the fact they won't even allow legal downloads, and THEN complain about illegal downloads..."

    ------------------------------------

    You can legally download films - and rent them - from iTunes.

  • Comment number 57.

    Many of the comments above say that music and films, media in general, aren't as good as they used to be, and so they're less likely to want to own a copy of it if it were for sale at today's normal prices.

    At first glance, such comments smack of grumpy old man syndrome - things were better in my day. Such comments have always been around. But I actually think that there is a very valid point in there. Making media available to the mass public is now much much easier than it used to be and far more immediate. It means we have lost an important quality filter - word of mouth.

    Throughout the history of entertainment media, the majority of poor quality output would typically have been abandoned and lost before they became known to the general public. Orchestras wouldn't want to play music that people didn't want to listen to, people wouldn't recommend plays that they thought were bad, radio wouldn't play music that their audience didn't like, people wouldn't buy albums that weren't any good (which is arguably why many bands concentrated on singles because they didn't have the volume of quality material).

    Anyway, what I mean is that much more of the bad stuff got dropped before it got anywhere, and then more got dropped as it failed to progress up the relevant charts.

    These days, the speed of the internet means that companies can swamp the market with absolutely anything without a significant difference in cost to the past when they had to do the cherry picking work themselves using polls and surveys to find out the good stuff. Releasing immediately to mass market passes that work to the public - things now start at the top and drop (or float if they're lucky).

    So I'd suggest that downloading media from the net actually provides a service to the industry because it helps filter out the dross. In the past, they industry wouldn't have expected people to buy a lot of that stuff. They now want to have their cake and eat it.

  • Comment number 58.

    This a want the web is all about.

    http://tinyurl.com/mdzz55

  • Comment number 59.

    I work for a small independent audio company which releases everything DRM-free, at a CD-quality bitrate, without adverts, priced for less than £5 per album (sometimes as low as £2.50 per album) and accompanied by oodles of free content (podcasts, free downloads, PDFs, try-before-you-buy releases, forums, blogs, webchats, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and so on) - and still the people who download our stuff for free from torrent sites outnumber the people who pay for it by a factor of 100 to 1.

    We're not talking music executives here: there is no middle man. 95% of the price of every sale goes to the artists themselves and still - despite 5-star reviews and universally high praise in the international press and online - 99% of our listeners think it's okay to rip us off. As a consequence, all our clients earn well below the minimum wage and we're finding it increasingly difficult to afford to make more content. As piracy sites have blossomed, so our sales have sunk. It is an irony that we now have more fans than ever before and yet we're selling less than half what we were even 5 years ago. We've never been more popular and yet we're on the verge of going bust.

    We have 10,000 members in our forums and only a few hundred of those people actually bother buying the stuff they talk about so enthusiastically on our web site - and yet we happily allow them onboard in the hope that some of them may feel inclined at some point to pay for what they listen to for free. We couldn't do more to offer our customers the 'fair deal' Stephen Fry claims people want and yet we're losing money year on year thanks to torrent sites.

    Pace Stephen Fry, the simple fact is that people are greedy and selfish. If they can get something for free, they will - and hang the consequences. Enough people have already posted on here proving that they feel they have a 'right' to get stuff for free, if they want it. I would like to ask the question: why? What right have you to get for free something others work hard to produce? I don't go to a local restaurant expecting to be fed for free. I don't call my lawyer expecting him to arrange my will for free. I don't get a plumber round and expect him to fix my shower for free. Why should you expect equally talented artists to give you their stuff for free?

    Plenty of posters here have stated that they're happy to pay a fair price provided that they know the majority of it would go to the artists themselves and not the executives. Well 95% of the money our customers pay us goes directly to the artists - and still the vast majority prefer to pay nothing and download our stuff from torrent sites. Do you imagine that any of our artists are pleased to have hundreds of thousands of fans around the world listening to their stuff, none of whom are prepared to pay it? I can tell you: they aren't.

    I love Stephen Fry, but I'd love him even more if he used that massive brain of his to come up with some suggestions out of this deadlock rather than simply saying it's okay to download for free (I know he wasn't actively encouraging people to engage in piracy, but at no point did he discourage them). Radiohead tried the 'honesty box' policy and lost money because the majority of their fans downloaded their album for free or paid them a couple of pence for it. Number One podcasters on iTunes have attempted to recoup their considerable production costs by charging 5p per podcast and have instantly dropped from the charts and been accused of 'greed' by their 'loyal' fans. We have to find a solution to this problem and that's what I hoped Stephen Fry was going discuss. Instead, I fear his comments have given carte blanche to millions of potential internet pirates.

    A solution needs to be found, otherwise there won't be any decent music, books, films or, importantly, another Stephen Fry in years to come.

  • Comment number 60.

    There's only on way to sort out a complex matter like this, and its a simple answer:
    A Blanket license is the only way that the music and film industry will ever flourish again in these internet driven media times. Between the millions of internet users it would work out at less that £10 a month per person to access, watch, dowload all the films and music they could possibly want. This would bring in more rvenue than anything else, and could be made mandatory as part of you subscription fee to internet providers. Yes i'm sure people will figiure out ways to get around it and complain that they dont access copyrighted materials, but surely its better than this free rain of piracy available to everyone.
    It would run in a similar way to the revenue collection and distribution services provided by the MCPS-PRS Alliance.
    What do the people think???

  • Comment number 61.

    I realise that I may be unusual however, I tend to like music and TV that is not generally available on my local TV and radio stations. So when a friend recommends something that I can't see or hear on free to air locally - I will often download it for free and if I like it I will spend the A$35-40 for a CD and often over A$80 for DVDs (if I buy a whole series boxed set). My reasoning is that it a lot of money out of my budget to buy these things and if I can't see or hear the product before I buy it - how do I know I am not forking out all that money for something I don't like?

    The fact is I actually spend more on CDs and DVDs now, than before - because I get to "try before I buy"

    The fact that Itunes Australia actually charges exactly the same for albums and TV shows as the Recommended Retail Price for the CDs and DVDs is outrageous and I refuse to pay them. (if I can get something cheaper in my local store when it is on sale - and be able to play the format on more platforms why would I bother?)

    So I am actually contributing more to the industry now and more to emerging artists than I would have otherwise - but it doesn't matter to these companies if I actually do pay for the stuff later - I still run the same risks of getting prosecuted as people who just download it.

    I know several bands who live stream their albums so you can hear them without having to pay for them and if you like the music you can order their CDs. If more companies were prepared to do that then maybe more people would be willing to pay - if we felt we were being treating fairly.

  • Comment number 62.

    Stephen's right, in essentials, but I can understand the "pulling his ladder up" comments from some bloggers. Like Radiohead, it's easy for him to advocate a looser model of free downloading when his own fortune was made, in spades, under a closed, non-digital system in the eighties and nineties. Radiohead were already millionaires several times over when they released "In Rainbows" on the famous "pay your conscience" model. Their money was made mostly as a result of "OK Computer", a twelve-year-old conventionally-released record which continues to sell by the hodload, enriching everyone involved in it. They can afford to play the philanthropists now.

    That doesn't really take away from the validity of Stephen's (or Ed O'Brien from Radiohead's) arguments, though. The game has changed, and people still aren't getting it. The creative industries have been incredibly slow to see that content is not where money is to be made in the digital age. Trying to protect revenue from pure content-flogging is a hiding to nothing. If an artist wants to provide their services full-time to the public, they need to understand that the days of Led Zeppelin becoming multi-millionaires from record sales are long gone. Good thing too. The revenue, in music at least, is all going to be in live performance and merchandising.

    I'm fully supportive of artists' intellectual rights over their creative output, but it's unrealistic to expect an ongoing stream of revenue to flow from that intellectual property. With the way the world works nowadays, that can't be made to happen: full-time musicians have to just get on their bikes and look for gigs (as I imagine Norman Tebbit would blanch at saying).

    The thing is, digital music allows those of us who have a day job to do what we love and give it away for nothing, safe in the knowledge that we don't HAVE to be full time rock stars. I'm a teacher; I love my job; I have no desire to spend a zillion days a year on the road behind my record. On the other other hand, I want to make music and release it.

    Digital means I am able to make and release my music for almost no money - I record on a MacBook and mix and master everything at home. This costs me next to nothing, especially compared to the old system (signing to a record label, taking a vast advance to pay for studio time, then spending the next however-many years paying the advance back). The method of production and distribution is now near-as-dammit free, and in the hands of the artists, so we don't NEED to make money off it. I can build up my audience using the internet and word of mouth from gigs. There's no reason why any creative person can't do the same - we don't need to be Carole King: writing songs 9-5 in a hired office. We also don't need to be The Rolling Stones: fabulous wealthy, entirely subsumed by our "industry", touring for 30 years and creatively moribund.

    Many people still entertain the fantasy that being a musician is going to make you rich. It's less true today than ever, but that's OK, because we're free, in every sense.

 

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