Monday, April 06, 2009

Giving Away Music For Free to Destroy Copyright Piracy: Operation Success, Patient Dead?

Google is trying to get a bit closer to Baidu, the number one search engine in China. Therefore it is offering the users of free music downloads. It is legal, because all copyright holders have given permission.

Murad Ahmed of the Times Online wrote:
"The service is supported by 140 record labels, including the big four (Warner Music, Universal, EMO, Sony BMG), and will earn revenue from advertising on pages that let Chinese web users download or stream licensed music – 350,000 tracks are already available, with plans to have more than a million tracks within a few months. Warner Music said that it would make its entire global catalogue available as part of the deal." Read Mr Ahmed's article here.

Advertising seems to be the only feasible business model on the internet that has emerged and the music industry also wants to give it a try. The music industry might have realised that (to paraphrase Professor Lawrence Lessig in his excellent book Free Culture) to criminalise a whole generation is not the way to go forward.

There is no question about whether this business model decreases the urge to pirate copyrights, but the question is whether the music industry can survive this way. Is it a good idea, or will this turn out to be "operation succeeded, patient died"? 

What do you think?

Also listen to/read the interview of Bob Garfield of On the Media with Greg Kot, author of the upcoming book 'Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music'. 
Thanks for pointing out this interview Ron Yu of

Mira Veda wrote a nice article for the Huffington Post about it called 'Pirates Stealing Music in China ... US ... Everywhere', don't forget to read the commentaries below Ms Veda's article.


Anonymous said...

This is insane!!! Why should you reward THIEVES...
Criminal enforcement is the solution to piracy. This is money spent in the most stupid way imaginable and it does not benefit the artists.

Ron said...

The music business model must change to a scheme where artists and music companies earn money from secondary sources such as advertising, concerts, etc. Greater exposure on the Web arguably helps by expanding the audience or introducing artists to listeners they would normally not reach - and several artists have already realized the benefits of free web exposure. This model is both proven and not new - the Grateful Dead famously encouraged people to record their concerts and distribute copies in the 1960s and then went on to become leading recording artists.

Anonymous said...

I want to know why the record labels have not embraced this model in the United States. They are always complaining that iTunes does not sufficiently compensate them and their artists. Why don't they take the bull by the horns and do in the U.S. what they and Google are now doing in China?

@ Anonymous: criminal enforcement will never solve the piracy problem.

Anonymous said...

I agree that enforcement will never be sufficient to fully prevent piracy, especially when so many pirates are simply one-off downloaders and not necessarily reselling or distributing the music. What I am really curious about, however, is why the music companies think this business model is OK for China, but seem wholly unwilling to take the same approach in the US, where they are, instead, partnering with ISPs to shut down accounts of users who go astray of the music company's demands. IP Dragon, maybe you can explain - what makes this OK in China but a bad idea in the US?

Jami Jackson said...

I think this is simply where the future is long as downloadable copies of content are available, it will be shared albeit illegally. We need to learn how to create value around the content instead of only rely on the content itself.

Anonymous said...

This may help reduce piracy in the short term, but, in the long term, free is not a good business model.

Look at all the newspapers closing down in the US and elsewhere. Part of the reason this is happening is that they put all their stuff online for free, so no-one pays for the print editions. Online advertising revenue is not compensating for this. The same could happen to the music industry.

It is also very unfair to Western comsumers: we have to pay, while the countries that have infringed the most get the music for free. Not a good message to send out.

chicanohek said...

google is behind the game on this one. the search options at Baidu are much better at finding music files for both Chinese and Western music lovers.

Anonymous (April 6th): The artists are fine. don't worry yourself over their well being!

Ron: well put!