Governments representing North America, Europe and Australasia remain hell-bent on pushing through ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), but an American tech writer is suggesting that these democracies could learn something from the situation in very non-democratic China.
ACTA aims to stifle illegal downloading of copyright material, the scourge of the entertainment industry, by getting governments to pass much tougher intellectual property laws. While joining ACTA is deemed “voluntary”, few observers doubt that the price of not joining will be less-favoured trading status with the USA. Opponents have attacked the secrecy that has surrounded the ACTA negotiations, and fear that the resulting agreement will infringe on digital rights and impose draconian rules aimed largely at protecting the interests of copyright holders.
But Iain Thomson, US editor of tech website V3.co.uk, thinks the ACTA advocates have got it wrong. Look at China, he points out, where in April Nokia launched its Comes With Music service. For the price of a handset (around $NZ200), users can tap into a catalogue of nine million songs from top artists with no digital rights management (DRM) software. That means the tracks can be shared freely.
And it seems that piracy has prompted this move by the record companies involved. It’s rife in China, and they know they haven’t a prayer of stopping it through legal action (unlike in other countries). So they’ve been pragmatic and decided to give music away in exchange for a cut of handset sales and subscription revenues.
“Here in the West we have been identified as a cash cow, to be squeezed to support an industry that needs radical reshaping,” Thomson wrote. “The music industry has to learn that the old way of doing things doesn’t work anymore.”