U2 manager Paul McGuinness picked up the copyright cudgel once again at MIDEM, this time directing his energies at Google.
It was the Irishman who in 2008 used the platform of MIDEM to demand ISPs counter illegal file movements on their networks, and take control of the war on piracy. This time, he fired shots at Google's role in undermining the proposed SOPA anti-piracy project.
"Why are they not trying to solve the future in a more generous way?" McGuinness said during the Sunday morning panel discussion, "Why copyright still matters online?" "Ultimately it's in their interests that the flow of content will continue. And that won't happen unless it's paid for.
"Though there is some improvement in the digital environment in terms of people getting paid , the vast majority of content distributed through their pipes is not paid for," he continued. "That's, in my view, utterly, utterly wrong. I don't think we can rely on politicians who are afraid of being unpopular to accomplish this without some real willingness - as I say, generosity - on the part of the technology area which…has shown this in the last few weeks to be very well able to make its case in a popular way. Never underestimate the ability of a monopoly to defend itself."
McGuinness, who is managing director of Dublin-based Principle Management, was a bit more generous to Spotify, which he called "ultimately a good thing," but called it more a "promotional medium" than a genuine business opportunity for artists. "I'd rather give (new music) to a DJ on a great station," he says.
U2 Manager Paul McGuinness participating in a panel at MIDEM (Photo: ©360 Medias/Image & Co)
"Spotify has yet to become popular with artists because artists don't see the financial benefit. That's partly the fault of the labels because the labels partly-own Spotify, and there is insufficient transparency."
But he admits the service does have its place. "There's no reason why the basic Spotify model can't be a part of the future. It is essentially honest so it should be encouraged. I would like to see it adopted everywhere."
McGuinness talked through the challenges Europe faced in policing the Internet for copyright-infringing works, and how smaller countries on the Continent have effectively held the EU to ransom. "France is the leader, ahead of Germany and Britain. These cultural centers of Europe have a lot to protect. But smaller countries, like Czech Republic, can stand in the way of progress. It's really hard." The resources available to record companies and music businesses are "nothing compared to those available to giant pharmaceutical companies with global patents to protect. It's not a fair fight."
"Free Ride" author/Former Billboard editor Robert Levine, who was also on the panel with entertainment lawyer Pierre-Marie Bouvery and Qobuz president Yves Riesel, brought an analytical voice to the panel discussion. Levine pointed to Google making "twice as much in the US last year as all four major labels combined… we need to change the way we look at these issues". Levine gave the audience a catch-phrase to take away. "We have to get back on the white horse," he said.