When was the last time you visited your local library and took a book home with you?
The concept itself is almost an anachronism.
However, certain aspects of this traditional relationship between lender and borrower are alive and well today. Content might be available over thousands of new channels but some providers seem to keep up unreasonable restrictions and stamp a date, in red, on all outgoing media.
Spotify announced today that it’s free music allowance will be halved from 20 hours to 10 on May 1st. Six million users in the UK will be allowed to listen to one particular song five times a month until the online music library renders it unavailable.
Spotify remains one of the best models for tackling illegal downloading: easy to access (and purchase) content attained with the permission of record labels. Although co-founder Daniel Ek is probably making a shrewd business move, he’s driving music fans – happy to operate within the realms of the law – off of the straight and narrow.
It seems a shame, especially considering the music industry’s very public struggle with internet piracy issues. The Recording Industry Association of America had their entire CSR strategy questioned in 2003 when filing a lawsuit against a 12 year old girl accused of illegally downloading music. Lobbyists felt so passionately that an independent group financially recompensed the family for the amount sued in fact.
More recently, in 2009, the Digital Economy Bill threatened to force the hands of UK ISPs to disconnect homes suspected of piracy. It still looks likely that broadband providers will need to make these cuts – at their own cost – and block all sites suspected of sharing content without permission.
What I’d like to see is, rather than a government hell bent on policing existing channels, is one happy to innovate and develop its own. There’s no reason why the nation couldn’t have a similar library as Spotify, subsidised using Digital Economy Bill resources, with any profit paid into the struggling UK music industry.