Aug 4, 2014

No place for artists in online copyright debate

John Ferris from Ministry of Sound Australia disagrees with the suggestion that filesharing will stop if content makers "just make stuff available".

Hayley Mary from independent Australian band The Jezabels performs at Splendour in the Grass

As someone who has worked in many roles in music all my adult life, I was compelled to respond to Bernard Keane’s article from last week and other outlets that have criticised the Online Copyright Infringement draft legislation.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

10 thoughts on “No place for artists in online copyright debate

  1. Arty Boxer

    I wonder if it would be more useful to consider the copyright holders separately from the artists. From what I have read, even back in the days of vinyl, the artists struggled to get much return from the music distributors.

  2. 81dvl

    Thank you John for the lucid and apposite article, showing admirable restraint in your expression given the cancer this is to performing artists.

  3. Nicholas

    Have file-sharing and streaming significantly changed the financial returns which creative workers get from their products?

    My understanding is that it has always been production and distribution companies that get the lion’s share of the profit from creative works. A tiny fraction of creative workers win the lottery by reaching a commercial scale audience. A small proportion beneath them make a decent but not spectacular living. The vast majority of creative workers make nothing or very little from their work and rely on other jobs for income.

    Has that situation actually changed because of digital technologies?

    How can digital technologies, industry regulation, and consumer consciousness be harnessed to redistribute wealth away from production and distribution companies and towards artists? I’m not saying that production and distribution companies don’t add value and don’t deserve a cut. But I would suggest that creative workers in general – not just the super stars – need a larger share than they get now, with production and distribution companies getting correspondingly less.

    It would be great to hear John Ferris’s views on how to achieve that. The argument he makes in this article merely echoes the self-interested rent-seeking of a lazy and complacent skein of companies which begs governments to protect its outdated business model instead of adapting its business model to new technology and consumer demand.

  4. scott redford

    As a visual artist for over 30 years I want to say that my images are often used without my permission or payment. From the National Gallery of Australia down through the State Galleries it’s rare to be asked copyright permission (there are some exceptions) and when we get to local government Galleries forget it! I am not so into copyright however it is the only thing that stands between a visual artist and the rampant exploitation of artists in the Government Art system of Australia. I personally found this when the NGA in Canberra flouted copyright laws but were stymied by the Royal Academy, London. Why complain about file sharing when the Art Gallery of SA doesn’t ask for copyright clearance from artists? They’ve never asked it from me.

  5. tinman_au

    Why torrent when you can stream for free? Some of your arguments aren’t very logical.

    And I think you’d do better for artists if you took it up with their publishers/producers John, they are the ones that are, and always have been, shafting artists…

  6. Juffy

    If the payment rate to the artist for digital download is 400 times that of streaming, how does that compare with the number of ‘purchases’ that actually occur via each method? If 400 times more people stream a song than buy a digital copy of it, is that not the same result to the artist? Is it possibly even better, as 400 more people listened to the artist and might (heaven forbid) like it enough to hunt down some more songs?

    After all, wasn’t that kinda the premise behind playing songs on radio? Radio plays song, person hears song, person likes song, person buys LP, artist buys hookers and blow and makes more songs.

    Speaking of which, how does that 0.4c/play compare to radio?

  7. Stuart Coyle

    I wonder is John has read Janis Ian’s take on this from a dozen years ago?

  8. Bento

    Talent and hard work are not, nor will ever be paths to steady income in entertainment for most participants.
    The majority of artists get almost nothing from recorded music and this probably won’t ever change. However, the world is getting smaller and if you can connect you may still be able to make something of your music.

    From a consumer point of view, I think recorded music is the bait for a live performance. Develop live performance that demands attention and that I will happily pay for.

    These days, it is much easier to record, publish, advertise your talents, connect with potential audiences and have a go at making it. The bummer is, you’re competing with a content explosion. For every bedroom recording success story, sadly, there are 2 million more people who would rather watch a video of a tiny hamster eating tiny burrito.

  9. Dogs breakfast

    “In the recent case where iiNet was found not to be responsible for what went through its “pipes”, it was the large internet providers as well as lobbying by YouTube and Google that promoted the myth that stopping file sharing was akin to censorship.”

    Well, not really. IInet claimed that it was not their business to tell people what they could look up, or to pay for the work required to investigate whether other businesses were legit or not. It was a fair argument.

    Google and youtube are a different matter, and they may well be evil, I suspect they are, but taking the fight to them was hard, so the government with the backing of the most conflicted of commentators, one Mr Murdoch, supported going after the ISP’s. It was the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

    It’s google and youtube that the industry of ‘artists’ need to go after, not the ISP’s. The hosts, not the pipe layers.

    Otherwise, while I share you concern for the artists, the winners in this game of drones won’t be the ones who spend all their time fighting it, it will be the ones who work around it, and come up with a new business model.

    You seem to be unaware that the music industry in particular in Australia is thriving, in terms of quality of music, number of artists etc. More people are hearing live music more regularly right now than I can ever remember, and so much of it home grown.

    The money these days is in the performance, not the copyright.

  10. mark holden

    I completely agree with this article – I have been receiving spottily royalties for a number of years now from Europe – my half of the song gets .00015 cents per steam – if its played one million times I make $150 – fortunately I’m the publisher so I split that $150 with me . Music online is free – we need to place a levy on the pipe – thats what people are prepared to pay for – their monthly mobile bill and their monthly broadband bill – thats it – follow the money ! Its called a culture tax in France and its the only way for creators to get paid . It goes into a fund like Apra and PPCA and those creators who register share that pool – will Malcolm get behind that ? will Bill ? its the only way for us to be paid for our creations bar the odd song that goes thru the roof and generates global airplay and syncs .

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details