British Songwriters Declare War on Free Music Sites
British songwriters on Monday launched a campaign to convince the public of the harm caused by free music sites on the Internet.
Elton John is one of the artists backing the publicity drive, which aims to persuade music-lovers that downloading music from the Internet deprives songwriters of their livelihood and could spell the end of the music industry.
The targets for the "Respect the Value of Music" campaign are on-line services like Napster, which allow people to share music files over the web for free, so depriving record companies and artists of their income.
"The object is to try to sell the idea to the public that music has value," said Guy Fletcher of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.
"Most people don't really understand that writers have to get paid for the music broadcast on TV and radio, otherwise there wouldn't be any music."
Musicians accept that they have their work cut out to convince consumers that multi-millionaire stars like Elton John are being deprived of a livelihood.
A court in London was told earlier this month that the singer had spent 293,000 pounds (418,000 dollars, 495,000 euros) on flowers alone during a 20-month spending spree.
But Fletcher said: "There are around 29,000 writers in this country and the vast majority don't earn a great deal."
The music industry is a major contributor to the British economy, generating about three billion pounds annually. Within five years, free music sites could be costing the industry two billion pounds a year in lost revenue, according to some estimates.
Napster, set up last year by American teenager Shawn Fanning, pioneered the distribution of music over the Internet using a standard computer file technology called MP3.
Record companies have woken up to the threat and have brought legal actions against Napster.
BMG, the music publishing arm of German media company Bertelsmann, recently reached an out-of-court settlement under which Napster has to pay royalties.
But since Napster got mired in legal difficulties, similar services have cropped up to replace it.
Some in the music industry believe the genie is already out of the bottle, and that the only way to maintain revenue is for record companies to set up their own music websites. – AFP.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)