November 26, 2014 Last Updated 7:56 am

British musician’s union wants members paid when a consumer copies and shares music

Like German publishers who want to force Google to pay for search snippets, BASCA wants to win a fight without considering the downside to winning

The British musician’s union, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA), can join the German publishing industry in the line to visit Santa tomorrow. It appears they want what only he can give them, the ability to turn back the clock to a time when digital media formats no longer existed.

BASCA wants its members to be paid when a consumer, after they have already bought for a music CD or MP3, decides to share that music with a friend. How they plan on implementing such a regiment they do not say. But before the UK government can implement new regulations they want the courts to take a look at them.


“Like the music? That will 20¢ please.”

“We have sought judicial review because of the way the government made its decision not to protect the UK’s creative industries – in stark contrast to other countries that have introduced copyright exceptions,” Vick Bain, CEO said. “We fully support the right of the consumer to copy legally bought music for their own personal and private use, but there must be fair compensation for the creators of the music.”

“The digital age has brought about real opportunity for the music industry and for creators, but in a lot of ways it has also made it more difficult for them to survive,” John Smith, MU General Secretary and President of the International Federation of Musicians said. “Whereas previously musicians could look forward to a steady income stream from recorded music, the advent of downloading, mp3 players and streaming services mean that the money that performers get from sales of recorded music has reduced. And that’s without even mentioning illegal downloading.”

This is true, just as it is true that publisher should be paid when their content is used by another company, such as when Google makes money on search results that are made possible by the existence of content created by others.

But the cat is out of the bag and Google is not going to pay publishers for snippets of search results (especially when they drive traffic for the publishers) any more than consumers are going to put up with having to pay every time they want to share a song with a friend. They have doing it every since the phonograph record was invented.

The problem with BASCA’s objection to the UK government’s new rules is the unintended consequences of getting what they want. Like the idea that German publishers will have their content pulled from Google, there are results right around the corner that are rather unpleasant. Sales of music are already depressed, and likely to decrease still more as consumers move to streaming services.

We magazine, newspaper and book publishers sympathize with the music industry – our industries have been turned upside down by digital alternatives. More and more we find that consumers will not pay for their media and we struggle to come up with ways to convince readers to support us.

TurkeyiPadPaul Blake and I will be relaunching the digital magazine App Publisher at the beginning of 2015 and each week we discuss story ideas, and other things about digital magazine publishing that involve how to produce a financially successful publication. We wish we had the answers, just as you do, but at least we are under no illusions: the present publishing environment is difficult.

But that is why and App Publisher exists – to work through these issues for our readers and to get your input into the conversation.

As we approach the Thanksgiving Day holiday, TNM would like to say that we are thankful for you, our readers – you who work each day to serve readers and who move our industry forward. Thank you.

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