(Following is a guest column from Ryan Chisholm, a manager at Bill Silva Entertainment in Los Angeles, in response to an earlier guest column by NMPA President/CEO David Israelite. Billboard.biz welcomes guest commentary--please contact Billboard.biz editor Jem Aswad at [email protected] for information.)
As a music manager with clients who own their publishing and some that own their masters, I've followed closely the debates around intellectual property legislation currently being considered by Congress. Both bills have stated goals of diminishing piracy, which I'm in favor of. Unfortunately, both bills also raise very real concerns. I read with interest David Israelite's recent column in favor of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), and believe that, while his perspective has some validity, he is not considering fully the negative impact these overly-broad bills would have on the evolving - and legitimate - digital marketplace.
In my view, the best way to combat piracy is to provide consumers with easier access to desired content. In the US, platforms such as Spotify, Rdio, MOG and the other subscription platforms have in 2011 made massive strides to grow the subscription marketplace and provide services that are cleaner, easier to use and more streamlined then the most popular file sharing sites. In terms of the entertainment industry, I can only comment on the music business, but I truly feel services like Spotify have done a great job of providing a true alternative to unauthorized music distribution. The next step is to get non-music industry to recognize the benefits of access and interoperability so that the number of users can expand (hopefully, along with artist compensation). In my opinion, the subscription platforms need to get aggressive with their marketing strategies and start getting in front of the file sharers and casual consumers. These services are solid solutions and are continuously improving.
The music industry already has a poor rapport with many consumers. SOPA/Protect IP only adds fuels the fire of those disgruntled (and web-savvy) listeners who are pissed off that we in the industry can't all get on the same page to agree on deal points to establish a consumer-friendly, legitimate marketplace that rewards creators, rightsholders and fans alike. Worse still, SOPA/Protect IP could make it harder for tomorrow's innovative services to be developed. Today, we are only beginning to realize the potential of sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud - along with numerous popular blogs and thousands of music sites - in driving discovery of and monetization around music. These platforms have become some of the greatest tools we in the business have ever had at our disposal. These sites provide fans the opportunity to participate more directly and meaningfully in the content provided by artists and rightwsholders. In their current form, SOPA/Protect IP give far too much leeway for legitimate expression to be silenced on the grounds of combating infringement. This affects far more than the entertainment industries.
Now, I definitely think that copyrights should be valued and our content owners should be paid, but I do not think the answer is coming down hard on a sector that is helping to build the infrastructure that we use every day to grow our audiences and attract new business.
There may be a way to design these bills that would target the internet's true bad actors while avoiding the collateral damage of blunt-instrument approaches to enforcement. I truly hope that those who champion the current legislation will begin to understand the long-term disadvantages of stymieing a still-developing marketplace and work towards solutions that are appropriately tailored (and effective). I also hope that the industry can put real effort towards making it easier to access and experience music legitimately. This is the true alternative to piracy.
I certainly don't have all the answers. These issues are complex, and much bigger than me, or any one of us. But we do need to come together for the betterment of our industry to find a solution that puts the fan first, but also takes care of our artists and rightsholder partners. These bills, in my view, do not meet those essential criteria.