Tuesday, April 7, 2009

U2 manager defends French 'three strikes' law

U2 manager Paul McGuinness has an interesting op-ed in The Guardian, defending the new French 'three strikes' proposal as "a fair and balanced solution [that] will work in practice." Says McGuinness:
There are clearly people who oppose the new law, but I have not heard of any viable economic alternative to the system now being introduced, committing ISPs to helping protect copyright. The only other proposals offered look like solutions produced for the laboratory, not for the market place.
Specifically, McGuinness rejects the notion that revenue from live concerts can make up for losses from piracy and other causes:
It is a myth that artists can build long-term careers on live music alone. U2 will this year fill huge stadiums around the world, including two shows at Stade de France at a capacity of 93,000. That is because they have had parallel careers as recording artists and live performers since their inception 30 years ago.
Will the French program prove to be a successful model for the rest of the world (or even for France)? I don't know, and I don't think anyone can really know until we see it operate for several years. Will it actually result in decreased levels of piracy? And just as important, how will the public perceive it?

One problem with any such program is that, given the large numbers of ISP subscribers, even an extremely well-managed and accurate program will produce a significant number of mistakes. France has roughly 15 million broadband subscribers. Let's assume that in any one year, 1% of subscribers receive an incorrect notice. That's 150,000 incorrect notices. And no doubt there will be a fair number of widows, orphans, politicians, and even people employed in the entertainment industry within that group, all of whom will provide juicy stories for a skeptical press and blogosphere (which will inevitably focus on the outliers). And even if the rate of incorrect notices is only .1%, that's still 15,000 stories to plumb. Maybe the French system will be accurate enough, and will provide a robust and fair enough dispute resolution system, to keep the errors and PR disasters to a minimum. I suggest we reserve judgment until we have a chance to actually see the program in action.

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