Leipzig sans Video

I am posting this in english because it might be of interest not only to german readers. In case there really are any non-german readers. Hello world.

Originally, I was planning on not writing about the event but posting a video summary instead. I took my video camera, but while setting it up I discovered that I took the wrong power adaptor with me (the batteries were empty) – so blame me. Better yet, blame the industry for still not having realized that a major drawback of transportable electronic equipment is the non existence of a standard for power plugs. If you carry a lot of electronic stuff around like I do, you’ll agree that the main load is not the equipment itself but the chargers, adaptors and plugs you need to take along.

So how about one power unit for my laptop, cell phone, PDA, digital photo cam and video cam? One unit, separate connection cables with different adjustable voltages if necessary? Oh, and make it small and light. Please.

But back to the topic: An event at the Telekom University in Leipzig on wednesday, May 5, accompanying the „Welttag des geistigen Eigentums“ (world day of intellectual property, whoever invented that).

Discussion topic: „Music downloads as public right or crime: The internet, the personal copy and copyright“ (now *you* discuss this in two hours!).

Introduction: Prof. Christian Berger, legal faculty of the University Leipzig.

Moderation: Jürgen Christ, journalist, mediaoffice.net, Leipzig.

Discussion partners: Dr. Hartmut Spiesecke, Communications Director, IFPI Germany and Johnny Haeusler, ex-musician, ex-radio journalist, CCC ambassador and author of the weblog you’re currently reading.

The intro by Prof. Berger as an expert for copyright issues was brief and academically correct, though a little disappointing. Very little future outlook, no words about current alternative options like Creative Commons. I agreed later with Dr. Berger that we’d hook up again to discuss those alternatives, so stay tuned for „Leipzig reloaded“ soon. Surprisingly, Prof. Berger has no problems with the current legal status of the personal copy.

To explain this a little further: Legally, we all have the right to make a personal copy of a CD we bought (up to seven copies, to be precise). With the latest changes in copyright law, though, the manufacturer of a CD also has the right to prevent this personal copy by using a copy protection system on CDs and you as the consumer are not allowed to work around this copy protection system. So the law is, to put it mildly, a little shaky. For what use is the right to make a personal copy if you simply can’t make use of this right?

For this and other reasons, the CCC asks every consumer to boycott the record industry and with Jürgen Christ’s introduction to this fact the discussion could begin.

First, let me tell you that putting a man like Dr. Hartmut Spiesecke in the chair of the Communications Director clearly marks a change of approach in the industry. It is wise to let him do the talking instead of people like Gerd Gebhardt, who amongst others made some bad press in the last years with too emotional and partly aggressive remarks on customers which harm the image of the industry (the managing director of the IFPI Germany, Peter Zombik, even compared the invention of MP3 with the invention of the neutron bomb on a panel that I took part in in 1999).

Spiesecke is a relatively open, pretty young (I’m saying that to make myself young as well – we’re both close to 40) and professional communicator. It is hard to lead him off the beaten path he’s talking on, to get away from the arguments we’ve read so often and to get down to the core of the discussion, so in some ways Spiesecke acts like a politician, always agreeing to what his opponent says (even though he says something very different to Spiesecke’s opinion) and never overreacting. He is also pretty well informed (well, you should expect that) and never comes across arrogant or stubborn. He avoids attacking consumers and he agrees to some arguments of his discussion partners. If you google him, you’ll find personal e-mail discussions with single consumers that he took time for – something that very few communications directors do, I’d say.

So the man has a mission. But he lacks vision.

While some of the facts that Dr. Spiesecke mentions might be considered correct, I completely disagree on others (makes sense for a discussion doesn’t it?). If his industry doesn’t sell enough records anymore it partly has to do with more people downloading and copying music – it is safe to say that’s correct. But if the IFPI really wants to make me believe that if less people buy CDs, no new music will evolve, I have to tell them that music will always be made because it is an urge of artists to make it, not an economic neccessity. And I strongly oppose the way the recording industry is dealing with its problems, which mainly results in investing millions on copy protection systems that prevent CDs from playing on a lot of CD players, in trying to sue peer-to-peer network users, in trying to ban the right to make personal copies. It’s true that phononet was just started as an alternative, but that’s just the record industry trying to port their existing business model to the digital world (industry delivering content to dealers not directly but via a wholesale which lets them control individual prices). We all now that thousands of download portals can’t be the solution.

Where other industries had to re-think and re-work their business model with the evolution of digital tools and media, the record industry first denied changes for years and now fights them instead of embracing them and adopting to them. I suggested the vision to Spiesecke to invest in a legal file sharing platform that lets users upload digital versions of their old vinyl in trade for downloads, therefore building a huge archive of music that even the industry hasn’t got anymore. Spiesecke correctly pointed out the problems with back catalogues and their rights owners, but hey: no pain, no gain. It might take some time but I am pretty sure that it can be done. If the model is reasonable, very few rights owners will oppose a digital deal, I think. Just don’t betray them.

Just recently, the IFPI tries to cut down the share of authors from 9,009 percent to 5,6 percent which makes their claim of working for artists and authors sound a little… uhm… false. And it is frightening to hear from Spiesecke that he truly believes that the author shouldn’t get more than those 5,6 percent (though he wants to meet somewhere in between with the GEMA, whose open reply to the IFPI can be found here).

Although Dr. Spiesecke avoided to paint any substantial future visions, he agreed with me that the current record industry might turn into something different than it is today – maybe a marketing, managing and consultancy agency. From my point of view, there will very soon be no more need for what record companies do right now (mainly producing and distributing CDs) but there will be a strong need for establishing and promoting artists. This job, however, can be done by almost everybody, so if the industry doesn’t re-think fast, it will simply vanish. And even if it does adopt, I believe that there are chances that the 9,009 percent might turn into what they get, not what they give.

Naturally, Dr. Spiesecke does believe in a bright future for his industry though he sees a deep valley that needs crossing. He believes that it’ll take 10 to 20 years for things develop even further (we talked about networked personal home entertainment systems) while I believe that we’ll see the first label-independent, purely internet-made superstar within the next 5 years.

Some other points of the discussion that need a mention:

– The audience seemed very well informed and prepared.

– When asked by a student what the record industry does to better their image, Spiesecke replied that he, for one, takes a whole day to travel to Leipzig and discuss with 60 students, and he got a point for that.

– Spiesecke also said that he won’t invest millions of euros in an image campaign for the recording industry, he’d rather invest the money in new artists. I pointed out that currently the industry is investing more money in several copy protection systems and that they indeed did spend money for image campaigns, for example with the poor „copy kills music“ campaign. Dr. Spiesecke said that this campaign ran before 2000 (when he joined the IFPI) and that he wouldn’t have done this campaign. My respect for admitting mistakes.

– Dr. Spiesecke mentioned that music was never free since you even have to pay fees (GEZ) for listening to the radio or watching TV. He couldn’t promise me to get legal file sharing if I pay a little more GEZ, though. :)

In the end, it was a good day. I kindly asked the record industry to move away from their offending and somehow anti-consumer stance, to take a listen instead and to consider creativity and change instead of legal actions. I asked the industry to finally offer me alternatives instead of opposition since I am using a wonderful and highly innovative service for years now (file sharing) without even being given the chance to pay for it and using it legally.

I had the impression that with the discussion with Dr. Spiesecke, we might have taken a first step in the right direction, but from my personal experience with other people in the industry I am very sure that it’ll take more than him to make a real change.

Thanks again to Jürgen and Heike for taking care of me and providing a nice afternoon in Leipzig!

3 Kommentare

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    I was at that event too. I must say that it was very interesting to listen to somebody who’s neutral ( Prof. Berger) and then the two „opposers“ (Dr. Spiesecke and Mr. Häusler).

    I agree with johnny’s post, that Mr. Spiesecke is a byte like a politician, i asked him a question and got lots of answers but not the one that fits my question…we can hope that he do his business better than answering questions ;) .

    Unfortunately there were very less people for such an actual topic. I hope it will be better next time…same time, same location?

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