Sunday, December 12, 2004

House Points: 10 December 2004

Here is Friday's column from Liberal Democrat News. Not funny, but I think it is true. It's an issue I have been thinking about for a while, but I was influenced by this article from the Trash City site.


In politics things are often the opposite of what they appear. Take Monday, when the Labour MP John Robertson asked Estelle Morris what she was doing to promote music among young people.

You would naturally have assumed he wanted them to have more of it. That was certainly what Morris thought he meant. So she boasted of the government’s music manifesto and its aim of providing every young person with access to musical experiences.

But that was not what Robertson had in mind. For he then asked if Morris agreed we should be educating young people about the value of the creativity involved in making music. It’s not clear that those words mean anything, but she did agree.

It turned out that Robertson wanted the government to endorse the music industry’s "Respect the Value of Music" campaign. This is intended to discourage young people from downloading music from the internet.

So what Robertson really wanted was for young to have less access to music. And Morris obliged: “We must make sure that everybody uses and accesses music in a way that protects the copyright of those who write it.”

Yes, the music industry is in a state of flux, busy seeking a business model that will enable it to exploit the net. But every technological advance produces winners and losers. Some exisiting companies thrive, others are elbowed aside and eventually a new order settles down.

And every technological advance is treated as a threat to performing artists. (Music companies only care about artists, of course; they never think of their profits.) Once, home taping was supposed to be killing music. In reality, it encouraged people to listen to music and they ended up buying more records. Then the film companies tried to have home video recorders banned. Fortunately for them they failed, and cinemas have been booming ever since. It is hard to see why, in the long run, the availability of music over the net should be any different.

By endorsing the "Respect the Value of Music" campaign Estelle Morris is siding with the industry’s losers. Government certainly has a role in the arts, but it’s hard to see why protecting unsuccessful multinational companies by limiting the access that young people have to music should form part of it.

No comments: