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Anti-piracy music deal for Virgin

June 15, 2009

Anti-piracy music deal for Virgin

The BBC reports that ISP Virgin and music industry dinosaur label Universal have signed a deal that will give the ISP’s customers access to ‘unlimited’ music. For a monthly fee, Virgin’s broadband customers will be able to download or stream as many mp3 files as they want. As part of the deal, Virgin has pledged to ‘aggressively police use’ to stop the mp3 tracks turning up on file-sharing networks. As if that’ll work!

The record industry once again turns to criminalising its own customers as its unimaginative and futile response to a changing world. It’s sad that an ISP will be complicit in such utter stupidity but I guess Big Capital sticks together in the face of any perceived threat to profits.

The offer of unlimited downloads for a fee might seem attractive to many people; a subscription model has some advantages. However, this particular one has some problems. Firstly, it’s one of the big labels, who then control what is available to you to listen to. Mostly mainstream crap, of course. Secondly: is there an equitable and easy way for small labels or unsigned acts to add their music and earn some of the revenue? I doubt Universal would like that. Thirdly, they are still trying to control what you do with music you’ve bought. It is analogous to a publisher prosecuting you for lending that book you bought last month to a friend. Whatever the licensing might try to achieve in terms of controlling rights, the reality is this: people do not want DRM systems on music they buy so unprotected mp3s (or other formats) are necessary. Equally true is that people will share these files. Prosecuting customers or restricting their internet service is utterly counterproductive. How many customers will Virgin have left when word gets around that they cut your service for sending your friend an mp3? Virgin are fools for accepting this deal.


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