In its harshest indictment yet of Internet piracy, a top official of the music industry said Sunday Europe’s 600,000 music professionals risk losing their jobs unless the industry fights back.
“They are all potential victims of online music piracy,” Jay Berman, the CEO of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) told music executives in his annual address at the Midem music conference in southern France.
“In truth, online music piracy is not about free music. The music creators and rights holders, denied the right to choose how their music is used and enjoyed, are in fact paying the price,” Berman said in a fiery speech.
The music industry is facing its fourth straight year of declining sales. Executives blame the rise of Internet file-sharing services such as Grokster, Kazaa and Morpheus, plus rampant CD copying by consumers and organized criminal groups.
Berman challenged music executives at the major music labels, which include Warner Music, Vivendi Music, BMG, EMI and Sony Music, to tackle its nemesis head-on.
He urged them to pump more money into promoting industry-backed subscription download services and step up lobbying efforts to bring a new piece of European legislation, The Copyright Directive, into law on the local level.
Berman accused the telecommunications industry of derailing the Copyright Directive, which has won support in Brussels, but still requires 13 of the 15 European Union member states to adopt on the local level.
If passed, it would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to play a more vigilant role in the protection of copyright-protected materials. The ISPs have challenged the directive on the grounds that it put them in the costly role of having to police their customers.
Compared to the United States, which has the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, Europe lacks strong laws that would penalize individuals for distributing and reproducing copyrighted materials such as music, films and software.
Undeterred, Berman said the IFPI would step up its litigation efforts against online piracy on behalf of its music label trade members, targeting individuals who download who download many songs.
Berman also criticized comments made by chart-topping British pop star Robbie Williams, who Saturday called file-sharing “great.”
“There’s nothing anybody can do about it,” Williams said at a news conference, a statement that later struck a nerve with music executives who have congregated in the swanky French Riviera city to figure a way to curb online piracy.
Berman pointed to the fact that file-sharing and CD-copying are eating into the sales of the biggest stars. In the past two years, only one artist, Eminem, has sold over 10 million CDs in a single year, once a commonly hit benchmark for supremacy.
If sales fall off at the top, labels will have difficulties funding the development of up-and-coming acts.
“There are a lot of artists out there who haven’t signed Robbie-like deals,” Berman said, referring to Williams’ estimated $125 million mega-deal with Britain’s EMI.