Photo Credit: © 360 MEDIAS - IMAGE & Co

CANNES, France -- Vivendi CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy called on governments to step up their fight against piracy during his keynote interview at the MIDEM conference today. In a half-hour discussion with the Financial Times' Ben Fenton, Lévy's comments on piracy efforts needed some coaxing but came out sharp and decisive.

Governments around the world are not doing enough to combat digital piracy, he said, recalling comments he made at MIDEM a few years ago that countries were blind to the damage of their cultural heritage. "Still, I'm amazed by the unavailability of strong legal solutions that could be enforced in most countries in the world." Lévy noted that the governments in some countries, such as Sweden and France, "are trying their best" to crack down on piracy through legislation.

In France, he said, "the Hadopi law is a great breakthrough." And he pointed to the rise of Spotify and digital music revenue in Sweden, another country that has implemented anti-piracy legislation.

It should be noted that Hadopi is too new to return either positive or negative results thus far. In Sweden, however, the initial impact of anti-piracy legislation may be wearing off. As the IFPI pointed out in its Digital Music Report 2011, a sharp increase in piracy levels coincided with "a sharp decline in physical sales in Sweden in 2010." Passing legislation, it appears, is only a small part of the battle. Effective enforcement is another issue.

Lévy also underscored the need to maintain the value of music. But what does a record label or music publisher do when the Internet has robbed music of its scarcity? "The problem we have is music is popular, music is global, and it's up to us to get consumers, with the support of government, to pay for it."

Singling out music's global nature, he urged content owners to focus on the 80% of the world's population that "basically never was a significant part of the music industry." Universal Music Group is already pursuing those markets, Lévy said, through partnerships with local businesses such as mobile operators in India, Brazil and the Middle East. "We are now deriving revenues which are not a substitution from record sales, but a new stream of revenue."

Outside of piracy, Lévy often talked about Vivendi in the vagaries used by a chief executive at a major conference. "We need to take our future into our own hands," he said at one point, "to conceptualize it, to implement it." And when recalling the past ten years of incredible transformation, Levy could only call it a "difficult decade."

But Levy did show flashes of humor. When asked which part of EMI his company might like to acquire, Lévy replied, "not the debt."