Bono: China Content Filtering Success Proves P2P Fight Winnable

Says fight against child porn and success by Chinese govt in content tracking prove fight against illegal file-sharing is winnable, and that P2P is rewarding ISPs “whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.”

Back in March of last year U2 frontman Bono blasted file-sharers for turning music into “tap water” and then lamented that the “Internet has emasculated rather than liberated artists.”

Many gave the singer a pass for his noble efforts in the fight against poverty and hunger around the world, but that may now change.

In an op-ed for the NY Times, Bono lays out his Ten for the Next Ten, ten ideas that “might make the next 10 years more interesting, healthy or civil,” he says.

One of them is the idea that we need additional protection for intellectual property developers to better protect them in the age of digital distribution.

For this he suggests we need ISP-level content filtering and mocks their “dumb pipe” defense.

“We’re the post office, they tell us; who knows what’s in the brown-paper packages? But we know from America’s noble effort to stop child pornography, not to mention China’s ignoble effort to suppress online dissent, that it’s perfectly possible to track content,” he says.

Efforts to fight child porn and a massive intrusion by an overzealous totalitarian regime are hardly good comparisons to what is possible to solve a problem that is largely self-inflicted.

Bono causally says it’s possible to “track content” without pondering what they actually means. It means inspecting each and every data packet transmitted across an ISPs network and for what? To find the Eagle’s “Hotel California?” It will be the equivalent of a mandatory pat-down regardless of guilt or suspicion, certainly a violation of the 4th amendment, and can easily be bypassed in a number of ways.

Adding to his criticism of ISPs he says they’ve gotten rich from P2P and that they’re financial gains “perfectly mirror” the music industry’s losses.

“A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can’t live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us — and the people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business,” he says.

ISPs may be getting richer, but it’s not solely because of P2P. The world is increasingly going online with everything from the morning news to social networking sites like Facebook becoming an integral part of people’s daily lives.

Decreasing music sales have a number of reasons and P2P is not the only one. Digital singles are also to blame. A formerly $20 physical CD has been reduced to a measly 99 cents track on Apple’s iTunes. ISPs aren’t to blame for that one, it’s the greedy music labels who’ve fought consumers every step of the way to prevent them from getting what they actually want and at a fair price.

As for the supposed harm to “young, fledgling songwriters” Bono seems to know little about the business he’s in and seems to be against an even cursory amount of research. For a Harvard study from June of last year found that the number of albums being produced is greater than ever.

“Consumer access to recordings has vastly improved since the advent of file-sharing,” it concludes. “Since 2000, the number of recordings produced has more than doubled. In our view, this makes it difficult to argue that weaker copyright protection (as a result from illegal file-sharing) has had a negative impact on artists’ incentives to be creative.”

That’s right doubled.

“While file sharing disrupted some traditional business models in the creative industries, foremost in music, in our reading of the evidence there is little to suggest that the new technology has discouraged artistic production,” it furthers. “Weaker copyright protection, it seems, has benefited society.”

So if music artists are still creating and are doing so more than ever where’s the harm to the “young, fledgling songwriters” he laments?

His words echo statements from his band manager Paul McGuiness who has said that ISPs and the music biz should forge “commercial partnerships,” that Radiohead’s In Rainbows experiment “backfired,” and also praised France for passing a controversial “three-strikes” law that will somehow save artists from having their “livelihoods destroyed, their career ambitions stolen.”

Other artists like Kid Rock think it’s funny that the music industry, who for years ripped off everyone and anyone it could, is now the one crying foul.

“Back in the day, we all know the stories of the Otis Reddings and Chuck Berrys and Fats Dominos who never got paid,” Kid Rock said back in 2008. “So the internet was an opportunity for everyone to be treated fairly, for the consumer to get a fair price, for the artist to be paid fairly, for the record companies to make some money. But they stuck to the old system.”

Atlantic Records had even apparently asked Rock a few years ago to “stand up for illegal downloading” because “people are stealing from us and stealing from you.”

“Wait a second, you’ve been stealing from the artists for years,” he countered. “Now you want me to stand up for you?”

At least he gets it. Kid Rock’s main passion is playing live music and thinks that selling CDs is just a way to reach an audience and convince them to turn out and support him.

“I was telling kids — download it illegally, I don’t care,” he says. “I want you to hear my music so I can play live.”

Imagine that, an artist actually wanting to play before a crowd.

“Note to self: Don’t get over-rewarded rock stars on this bully pulpit,” Bono adds.

Note to Bono: I’d take your own advice. For a reminder ask Metallica what exile feels like.

Stay tuned.

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Stay tuned.

[email protected]