Digital technology and the Music Industry
Professor Roger Wallis, Dept of Media Technology & Graphic Arts, CSC, KTH, Sweden
Throughout media history, new disruptive technologies have triggered ferocious reactions from incumbent, dominant players. These include as a rule legal moves to block new technologies, or to claim damages from those introducing new distribution applications and business models. A common claim is that new technologies will have negative effects on creativity and productivity in the media sector, and should therefore be forbidden. Invariably, after a period of confusion, the new technologies are assimilated into the business models of those who have complained the loudest.
With the digital revolution, similar trends and rhetoric can be observed, often enhanced by a more complicated relationship between different legal regimes. The perceived threats posed by the Internet have led to a strengthening of the IPR regime, as well as a weakening of other legal parameters important for innovators, involving e.g. “safe haven” or “conduit responsibility” rules. Competition law has not served to limit the growth of a smaller number of global firms controlling more and more different types of IPRs.
Studies from both the USA and Europe suggest that creativity, in terms of production of new media products, has not decreased. Statistics from Sweden, which is often claimed by the media industry to be “the worst safe haven in the world for pirates”, indicate, for instance, that those who download films illegally buy more cinema tickets than their legal counterparts. Overall turnover of the Swedish music industry has not decreased since the start of this millennium. On the other hand there has been a major shift of revenues from sales of physical products (CDs) to physical experiences (the live music or concert business) resulting in increased revenues for artists and authors.
The global strategy of suing individual file sharers would not appear to be positive for creativity in a world of user-generated content that seeks an ever-growing audience in different social media. The high profile lawsuit demanding prison sentences for those responsible for starting the Pirate Bay Bit Torrent file-sharing site in Sweden can also have a negative long-term affect on respect for Intellectual Property Rights in society.
Dr Roger Wallis, researcher, composer, member of the Swedish Government's IT Advisory Board. Dr Wallis was a expert witness at the Pirate Bay trial in Stockholm, February 2009 - this resulted in his wife receiving flowers to the value of over 56,000 SEK from sympathizers world-wide