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PC Mag responds to music biz letter

By | Published on Thursday 25 November 2010

PC Mag wants to know how it ended up “being the music industry’s scapegoat”. I’m not sure it has, really, but we’re all capable of a bit of exaggeration I suppose, I know we exaggerate at least four millions times every single day. Anyway, the US-based IT website has responded to that previously reported letter signed by pretty much every American music business trade body and collecting society which criticised it for running a story reviewing alternative file-sharing services after a judge ordered LimeWire to stop distributing and supporting its P2P client last month. The music business types said the magazine was encouraging people to steal music, and that their disclaimer that “all of these services should be used for legal downloads, of course”, was a bit hollow.

But PC Mag is pretty clear in its response to the letter, which surfaced on the net earlier this week. It says the music industry’s claims are “nonsense”. Noting that there wasn’t an address on the letter to respond to, the website’s editors say they have emailed their thoughts to one of the signatories, and have shared those thoughts with their readers online.

As we published the music business’s letter yesterday, we thought we should publish PC Mag’s response today, though that technically infringes their copyright so, erm, “all of these sentences should be used for non-reading, of course”. 

PC Mag write:

[Our] story isn’t encouraging or discouraging anything. That’s not our role. PC Mag’s job is to cover all aspects of technology, which includes the products, services and activities that some groups and individuals might deem objectionable. We covered these LimeWire alternatives because we knew they would be of interest to our readers. We understand that some might use them to illegally download content. We cannot encourage that action, but also cannot stop it. Reporting on the existence of these services does neither.

We have, obviously, written about many online and offline services, including some that these groups might consider legitimate or “legal.” However, the fact is that some users store and manage illegally gained content in music applications like iTunes. We would not stop covering these utilities simply because some users place illegal or even inappropriate content in them.

The execs also call out coverage, found elsewhere online, of LimeWire’s resurrection and think the act of linking to any P2P service is damning in and of itself. Linking is part of reporting online and it worries me that the music industry thinks the answer to their troubles is any editorial entity employing self-censorship.

Let me be clear, the music industry’s charges remain groundless. is not a mouthpiece for music pirates or the music industry and we hold no stake in either side winning the copyrighted content war.

The letter goes on to suggest retract the article (we won’t).

It worries me that the music industry took this action, because it reeks of desperation. The RIAA and other music industry organisations have spent the better part of the decade fighting the digital transition, with only a shrinking business to show for it. In recent years, though, the fist of anger has turned into at least one open hand as the music industry embraces the once shunned digital music industry. Unfortunately, that warm embrace, and the change that comes with it, are not happening fast enough. Clearly the music industry is still losing money to music piracy and even the recalibrated profit margins brought on by legal music sharing services.

It’s time for these music execs to pull their collective heads out of the sand and fully acknowledge and accept all the ways their industry has changed. They also have to understand that nothing will stop technology’s inexorable march forward. Things will continue to change. Music downloads and sharing will never go away. These execs have to find a way to use all that technology allows and make a business that rivals the good old days of vinyl, cassette tape and even CDs.

We will continue to cover it all – as we must.