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The Great Escape 2012: Winning hearts and minds in copyright debate

By | Published on Thursday 10 May 2012

The Great Escape

The CMU-programmed Great Escape convention kicked off in Brighton this morning, with two sessions on copyright issues getting the proceedings going. One will look at the government’s current consultation on fair use type issues, while a session presented by PRS For Music is tackling the ongoing debate over piracy, and efforts to crack down on the distribution of illegal content online.

Artists, labels and other rights owners have scored a number of wins in recent years in persuading judges and ministers to crack down on illegal file-sharing, but when it comes to public opinion those who support file-sharing, or at least fear the draconian enforcement of copyright, have generally had the upper hand. And public opinion is everything – the successful anti-SOPA protests in the US earlier this year, led by Wikipedia and other leading web firms, derailed anti-piracy legislation Stateside that had been years in the making.

But what can the music community do to better put its side of the argument to the world at large? CMU spoke to two of the experts taking part in this Great Escape debate just before taking to the stage, and between them the advice is this: give a better voice to artists and creators, try to be less combative, and rethink your corporate PR strategy.

Songwriter and Guardian journalist Helienne Lindvall told CMU: “We need to end the myth that the music industry equals a bunch of big corporations, and that copyright only exists to line their pockets. The way to do it is to help creators and small labels feel safe enough to speak out”.

She continued: “As there’s safety in numbers, let’s start off by using a tool that the anti-copyright lobby has used with great success: online petitions. We need to support creators and smaller labels who dare to speak out, as it’s vital people understand that the erosion of copyright has a much more detrimental effect on creators and small labels than the big corporations. And to get people to understand, we need to explain why in an easy to grasp way”.

Meanwhile PR expert Andy Saunders of Velocity Communications told us: “If the creative industries think that they can put the genie back in the bottle they are wrong. They need to accept that, stop being so combative and take a more consultative approach to these issues”.

He added: “By properly engaging with consumers, ISPs, content licensees and governments, and listening to their arguments and concerns – rather than simply taking a blunt instrument, zero tolerance approach to all issues of copyright infringement – they might find a way through the no-win situation they currently find themselves in. They also need to invest in some decent PR strategy, which takes a more sophisticated, nuanced approach to the issues. This shrill, hectoring approach to external communications will get them nowhere”.

PRS For Music is hosting a whole day of sessions at The Great Escape today, including Brian Molko In Conversation with 6music’s Matt Everitt, and the always essential Will Page keynote, which became even more essential last night with the announcement that Martin Mills, Chairman of the Beggars Group, was joining his panel. Check for more information about the convention and wider TGE festival.

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