Monday, 9 November 2009

Digital pirates

Peter Mandelson is calling for strict reprisals to those who download music and films illegally, going so far as to cut off the perpetrators’ internet connections. Currently seven million people in this country choose to regularly download illicit files, while globally the figure is an astonishing 90%. While they are getting away with paying absolute zilch for their digital entertainment, artists and entertainers are losing out big time.

I’m not altogether sure where I stand on this debate. I used to download music illegally but I don’t any more. This is for two reasons: my husband is a musician and has convinced me that it is a totally immoral pastime, and secondly, legal downloads are cheap enough nowadays anyway. But I do believe the record industry has had it too good for too long and I’m glad they have finally had their come-uppance.

I recently went through my CD collection. The first one I ever bought was the soundtrack to the movie, Local Hero, all the way back in 1984. It was purchased in the days before barcodes so it still has its price label on - £12.99. That was 25 years ago and the equivalent of a whopping £30 nowadays – for one CD. Admittedly it might not have been as cheap to produce CDs then as it is today, but still, the record industry has been fleecing us music lovers ever since. In that time it has created many an ostentatious lifestyle for executives and best-selling artists alike. That’s why it’s difficult to feel sorry for them all now.

That said, I want to see new talent, both in the film and music industry – and I’m not talking about the creation of manufactured acts - and realise that without some investment, that talent will not emerge.

I’m not sure what the answer to this issue is but cutting off internet access isn’t going to create any income. And getting rid of sites that offer illegal downloads isn’t going to help either - like the nine-headed monster Hydra from Greek mythology, for every head you cut off, two will grow in its place.

One thing’s for certain, there is no going back. Advances in technology always mean that somebody loses out somewhere. You could ask the Luddites...if they were still around...

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