Go legal and die!

December 2, 2008

legal

The year 2008 is nearly over and we are still having a situation on the digital music market that cause entrepreneurs like Michael Robertson (CEO of MP3tunes) to write articles with headlines like: Legal digital music is commercial suicide – Fans suffer as lawyers get rich (Article for The Register).

Still record labels or copyright holders (collecting societies) are torpedoing successful music services with big financial requests from labels for “past infringement”, plus a hefty fee for future usage.
Michael Robertson´s comment: “Any company agreeing to these demands is signing their own financial death sentence.”

But Robertson is not only accusing the record industry:
The root cause is not the labels – chances are if you were running a label you would make the same demands, since the law permits it. The lack of clarity in the law is the real culprit – and it’s the huge potential penalties that create an incentive for the big record labels’ law firms to file lawsuits. Without clear laws and rulings from the court about what is permissible, every action touching a copyrighted work is a possible infringement, with a large financial windfall if the copyright owner can persuade a Judge to agree.

The problem is that changing the copyright law will need many more years – (Creative Commons and Lawrence Lessig are unfortunately no superheros) – … so the market has to be faster… has to find a solution… has to create an environment, where innovative business models can be develop without the fear of being sued the rest of your life. Why is there no chance to negotiate a true partnership between net companies and the content/copyright industry, where going legal is a real option for a start up, where both sides get the ability to create a profitable business?

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