The music industry is in trouble. The Internet has changed everything. Rather than embrace the change, they’ve tried to ignore it. Rather than adapt to the way their customers have changed, they’ve waged war on them. That hasn’t worked so now they’re trying to legislate their business model, ensuring a continued cash-flow.

Another huge issue is that the industry thinks only of itself. I expect businesses to keep their eye on revenues, but customers have to factor into their thinking because the customers are the source of the revenues. The music industry seem to have forgotten this. They act as if they’re entitled to a revenue stream.

Rolling Stone posted an interview with Don Henley, and he’s a perfect example of this way of thinking. He says:

Congress should amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), eliminating or dramatically limiting the Safe Harbor provisions so that ISPs and websites such as YouTube, MySpace and Facebook have legal liability for hosting infringing content. Just as distributors and retailers have equal liability under the law for distributing and/or selling bootleg or infringing music, films, software, and other intellectual property, so should online companies bear similar liability at law.

Distributors and retailers order their goods from suppliers. They don’t take public submissions. Having a supplier that gets their product directly from the manufacturer certainly makes it a lot easier to ensure it’s legitimate. But it’s not Henley’s problem that these sites accept submissions from the public.

Safe Harbour has existed as a legal construct for a long time. It applies to telephone companies and the postal system. Certainly the postal system is used to move bootleg and infringing products, and the telephone is used to arrange illegal activity. Using Henley’s logic, the phone company and mail system should also bear similar liability in law.

YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, the phone company, and the postal system would not function under the system Henley advocates. So how far do we let the music industry go in propping-up a dying business model?

Without this change, copyright owners are left with the unjustifiable and oppressive burden of constant policing of the online companies’ sites, which has little real effect on the continual problem of infringement of property, and serves mostly to embitter fans and the users of these sites.

If the burden is so oppressive and has little real effect, one wonders why they’re doing it. Regardless, shifting the burden to every ISP and website isn’t the answer. There’s no master list of every recording and its owner. How will every ISP know if a given piece of intellectual property is under copyright protection, and if it is, who owns it? Should such draconian legislation ever be passed, no ISP or web site would accept anything that could possibly fall under copyright protection. That would be the end of the Internet, and a dream come true for the music industry.

The recording industry was bullied by online retailers into removing protective measures, such as DRM, from their sound recordings or else facing the prospect of these retailers refusing to distribute their catalogs.

Bullshit. If iTunes wants to sell DRM-free music and chooses to offer only DRM-free music, record companies have a simple choice. Allow them to sell your catalogue or not. Retailers are certainly entitled to carry whatever product they choose in their own establishments, on-line or not. If consumers choose not to buy DRM-ladden material, retailers are certainly under no obligation to stock product that isn’t selling. The music industry calls this bullying? They can open their own on-line stores. Oh yea, they’ve tried a number of times and failed miserably.

The music industry has no problem with bullying as long as they’re the ones doing it. Now that someone else has a bit of power and insists on running their own business as they choose, the music industry is crying foul. Tough.

Yet, so far, digital royalties on music have failed to live up to the hype

So the music industry believed the hype? Not my problem. One has to wonder what hype they’re talking about, given that iTunes surpassed Walmart to become the largest US music retailer in 2008, and the next year iTunes became the largest music retailer in the world. And that’s just iTunes. What kind of hype is Henley talking about? If he’s not seeing revenues for downloads of his music, he should be talking to his label.

in fact, removing such protective measures has increased the theft of music and other intellectual property.

This old saw? Every incident of infringement is not a lost sale. To claim otherwise is disingenuous, at best.

Do you think I’m being harsh? That I’m not seeing their side of it? Surely such a big problem can only be solved by understanding both sides and perhaps taking a middle ground. You may call it a failure on my part, but I find it very difficult to see their side when the music industry has no interest in seeing any side but their own. To listen to their rhetoric, all of their customers are thieves. It’s a strange way to foster a business relationship.

With the way the music industry is trying to bend the law to their advantage, perhaps it’s time to roll back some of the changes for which they’ve successfully lobbied.  In the United States, copyright protection remains in effect for 70 years after the death of author. When copyright was first introduced in the United States with the copyright act of 1780, protection lasted 14 years, with the author having the option to renew for another 14 years, if he were still alive to do so. Maybe it’s time we reduced the length of protection.

Henley’s released four solo albums, in 1982, 1984, 1989, and 2000. Reducing copyright protection to 14 years would do him a big favour by making the “oppressive burden of constant policing of the online companies’ sites” far less oppressive. Only his latest album would still be under copyright, with the others reverting to the public domain. Even more helpful is the advantage such legislation would offer in keeping track of all his work with The Eagles. They’ve got nine albums, and only one would still fall under copyright protection. Instead of having thirteen albums to track, he’d only have to worry about two.

I’m happy to help lighten your oppressive workload, Mr. Henley. You’re welcome.