The following guest opinion comes to us from Carina Westling, online editor for Imagem Music, “the largest independent music publisher” in the world, representing the songwriting copyrights for everyone from Justin Timberlake to the Vampire Weekend. Not surprisingly, this music publisher doesn’t particularly love The Pirate Bay, while conceding that P2P performed the valuable function of encouraging the licensing of legal streaming services, and thinks Spotify’s artist payments are on the low side, but expects the music industry to continue changing.
With the recent proposal of crowd-sourced copyright law in Finland, things are looking interesting. File sharing has enjoyed broad-based support in Scandinavia, with flagship cases like The Pirate Bay (which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary) leading the onslaught on corporate intellectual property.
While the anti-censorship aspect of The Pirate Bay’s work can be seen as having merits, it is hard to support some of their claims regarding the right of artists to be paid for their work. Why artists, contrary to any other professional group, should not be entitled to be paid for their work, ought to be hard to justify — especially for those who enjoy the fruits of their labor.
This is a particularly keen issue for makers of music, as music dominates the content that is downloaded for free online, with nearly a quarter of the music online being downloaded illegally.
It is also true that file sharing has forced the development of more flexible solutions like online music libraries for streaming and/or downloading. With resources like the recently launched PirateBrowser, designed to prevent site-blocking, on the market, it is probably true that the focus for those who believe that artists should be paid fairly for their work needs to be on providing better services that people don’t mind paying for, rather than focusing entirely on trying to prevent file sharing through punitive measures.
This is already happening with online music streaming services, and the numbers of illegal downloads of music in markets with a high uptake of online streaming services has plummeted. While this is clearly an improvement from the artists’ point of view, the sustainability of Spotify as a medium for new artists is debated. Spotify makes bold claims about being artist-friendly, but remuneration per stream is reported to be as little as 0.4p [one U.S. cent], depending on the deal made between the record label and Spotify.
The digital distribution (legal and illegal) of music is still in its infancy, relatively speaking. The PirateBay’s recent anniversary marks a decade. We will undoubtedly see many more changes to the ways music is produced, distributed and monetized in years to come.