Big media enjoy having their cake and eating it

May 30, 2007

On the one hand, we hear news of the cartel-enforcing music industry schillls the BPI claiming £41 million in damages from online music retailer CD-Wow. CD-Wow’s crime was to buy CDs in Hong Kong, then to sell them online in the UK at prices beneath those of the massively inflated prices found on the UK’s high streets.

On the other, news today that the excellent Last.fm has been bought by US media behemoth CBS for £140 million. Last.fm is a collaborative internet broadcasting system that plays copyrighted music to its listeners, much like a radio station (I blogged about it before here). A similar system, Pandora, was recently forced to prevent listeners outside the US from accessing its service due to uncertainties over its copyright status.

While the connection between these three occurrences might seem tenuous, I believe it is a fine example of media corporations’ self-righteousness over copyright, pricing, and the like being entirely dependent on circumstance. If companies such as CBS spot advertising revenue in last.fm that, like Pandora, is potentially circumscribing copyright law, they will buy first and ask questions later.

If, however, the representative body of the UK music industry sees an enterprising website making money selling legitimate product that is simply from another territory, said body will drag the website through the courts in an attempt to bankrupt it, highlighting its breathtaking contempt for the consumer in so doing.

I guess it’s no surprise that media big business should only be interested in the bottom line. But when big media have already rigged the game in its favour so heavily to begin with, surely it’s not too much to ask for consistent application of rules largely of its own making?

Anyway, not sure if the parallel I’m trying to make holds very well, but it struck me as an interesting one. Thoughts, anyone?

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2 Responses to “Big media enjoy having their cake and eating it”

  1. eccemusic Says:

    I think last.fm really had to sell before this happened:
    http://www.savenetradio.org/

  2. neilstewart Says:

    I guess, but since it’s a UK company, perhaps this was a bit premature? Surely the problem with Pandora was that it was broadcasting from the US to other countries. I suppose similar uncertainties might scupper last.fm as well, though.


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