U2 band manager compares ISPs to 'shoplifters'

Speaking during a music conference in Hong Kong, the manager of U2 did not hold back, going on a public tirade against large Internet service providers, alleging they're profiting from illegal file sharing.

"The recorded music industry is in a crisis, and there is crucial help available but not being provided by companies who should be providing that help -- not just because it is morally right, but because it is in their commercial interest," U2 manager Paul McGuinness said during the Music Matters conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

McGuinness was especially critical of the China and its big businesses, citing Chinese ISPs making millions per year from ringtone sales, with "a minuscule fraction" being paid to music artists, producers and record labels. He showed praise for nations that plan to disconnect illegal file-sharers who download and share a certain level of songs, with Denmark, France, and the UK leading the wave.


ISPs have been stuck between a rock and a hard place, with no one -- not their own customers, and certainly not the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry -- satisfied with the current state of affairs. During a music industry convention in Cannes, France in January, McGuinness first went on the attack, stating music trade groups should shift their focus away from individual music sharers to the companies that are profiting, including MP3 manufacturers and ISPs.

"Network operators, in particular, have for too long had a free ride on music -- on our clients' content. It's time for a new approach -- time for ISPs to start taking responsibility for the content they've profited from for years," McGuinness said.

Governments including the United States, UK, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, and Europe, have slowly worked towards creating new legislation to appease the record industry, the recording artists, and ISPs. In Canada last January, for instance, Parliament began consideration of a bill suggested by musicians such as Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor, to create a mandatory Internet tax that would force each Internet user to pay a small fee per month that would allow them to download music content. That idea has been met with varied levels of support from groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

U2's McGuinness supports Nokia's deal with Universal Music and Sony BMG in which all Nokia "Comes with Music" mobile phones that feature unlimited downloads of music tracks supported by the PlaysForSure DRM certification. Nokia has not announced which phones will have the service, and should launch sometime this summer.

Even though legal digital downloads of music tracks has increased dramatically, global music revenue dropped 10% in 2007, due to lackluster CD sales.

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