U2's manager is barking up the wrong metaphorical tree

Mega-selling bands – and their managers – need to stop presenting themselves as the standard bearer for artists who are losing money due to illegal downloads. If you have ever toured with a giant lemon as part of your stage show, you lose the argument before you begin.

Having said that, here’s what U2’s manager Paul McGuiness has to say about the role of ISPs vis a vis illegal downloading:

“‘If you were a magazine advertising stolen cars, handling the money for stolen cars and seeing to the delivery of stolen cars, the police would soon be at your door,’ he said. ‘That’s no different to an ISP, but they say they can’t do anything about it.'”

Leaving aside for the moment the whole notion that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 means that ISPs are not, in fact, liable for such behavior, let’s look at what McGuinness is really saying here.

If a “magazine” was taking possession of stolen cars and receiving money for them, they would, in fact, be breaking the law. But let’s go with this and say that possession of copyrighted material that you do not own is like a stolen car (better return that copy of Freakonomics or The National album now!). ISPs neither receive money for the possession of copyrighted material (his first point) nor do they provide the programs that allow one to access copyrighted material (his second point about “seeing to the delivery” of stolen material). This would be like saying that the builder of a garage used to operate a chop shop is responsible for the thievery that goes on there. Or that Xerox is responsible for people who photocopy books.

I could go on, but what’s the point? This is like the time I told my sister that the government wasn’t responsible for providing for a particular service because it wasn’t in the Constitution and she replied “Well asparagus isn’t in the Constitution…” How do you argue with logic that isn’t logical?

This whole argument is stemming from Canada’s efforts to tax ISPs (they call it a fee, but come on now) and funnel that music to artists. Anyone who’s been following the business of music for the last 50 years ought to be suspicious of such a plan, even if such a fee goes directly to the music publishers and bypasses labels altogether. Sound Opinions also discussed this topic recently and I’m surprised they jumped on board with it. If for no other reason but that not everyone uses his or her Internet connection to download music they haven’t paid for.

But hey: let’s compromise. How about anyone who buys an album by crap Canadian bands has to pay a “bad taste” tax? So if you by the next album by Celine Dion, Nickelback, Sum 41 or Avril Lavigne, you have to pay an extra five bucks. Who’s with me?

3 comments for “U2's manager is barking up the wrong metaphorical tree

  1. January 29, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Nothing to do with this post, but I wanted to point out that Kylie Minogue is on your list of most-played artists over there.

  2. January 29, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Well, after < HREF="http://ourmaninchicago.blogspot.com/2007/07/reading-and-writing.html" REL="nofollow">this post<>, that should not be a surprise to anyone.

  3. Julene
    January 29, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    The whole idea of this confuses me, because if an ISP does decide to scan all your emails, downloads, etc. to see if you have anything illegal, don’t they lose their right to not be prosecuted as an accessory? Because they would technically have the knowledge of the crime. Wouldn’t that end up costing them a ton of money defending all the lawsuits that come out of the fact that the police find out that you have an illegal copy of Kylie Minogue that you downloaded and lo and behold it happened because Comcast was not fulfilling their duty to stop/prevent/report such illegal activities? Or would they get some sort of immunity if they missed the crime? Which then brings us back to the whole – why on earth would they have any incentive to do this?

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