Beatles Tube

Amazing isn't it…?

There are only two major recording artists that are not legally available as digital downloads – one is AC/DC and the other is The Beatles.

But someone has now put together all of the Beatles songs and videos into a “YouTube” styled interface so that you can access them all in one handy spot. Its is called naturally BeatlesTube – what else?

It seems like this must be a pretty flagrant breach of copyright, and there is money being made (presumably) since there are ads all over the site. On the other hand how much can a copyright owner do about this kind of thing. Not much I would think. The point is that there has to be a different set of rules in the digital world to the old analogue one. There is no point in having laws unless the entity who is the copyright owner is prepared to do something about protecting their rights. Surely in the case of The Beatles, that is first EMI Records as the label, and second Sony Music as the publisher. Both copyrights are clearly owned directly by these two entities. Pretty much everyone knows that who has been close to the music industry. (By the way I found out about Beatles Tube in an email from a very old friend's wife. The friend used to be an extremely senior executive in one of the companies mentioned below. She loves Beatles Tube. And who wouldn't?)

So while the record labels aggressively pursue downloaders and sharers of files, and movie studios put piracy ads at the beginning of DVD's what do they do about businesses like BeatlesTube? Apparently nothing.

Surely what this reveals is an incredible double standard for the recorded music industry.

Obviously it is extremely hard to track down infringements because they are happening all the time and everywhere.

So the answer has to be that the recorded music industry has to change the way that it approaches the on-line space and it has to make it easy for people who want to pay, to actually do so.

I blogged yesterday about the research in the UK that showed that break and enter crime dropped in the UK apparently directly as a result of the decrease in price of consumer goods manufactured in China, and able to be purchased legally at retail. These goods presumably included technology such as Dolby Digital that they would have had to license from the owners and pay for. However that is not a given. But let's assume it was so. We have a clear path here between the interest of the consumer in making a legitimate purchase over an illegitimate one, based on price.

When you have a web site that enables people to consume content that is available ephemerally such as with the Beatles Tube site, it may be harder to rationalize what kind of deal should be in place. However, there is the model of radio to fall back on. Radio stations pay a percentage of their revenues to the copyright owners for public performance. Why not web sites? Well, web sites are not considered to be public, whereas radio is. Surely the opportunity here is first for copyright owners to create a business model for web site owners that enables them to achieve some level of legitimacy by entering into an agreement with the copyright owners even if there is NO regulatory environment to work in.

This could be easy to set up, with copyright owners offering web site owners some level of legitimacy and protection from a future law suit. And the real lesson from the web, already classed my many as being the wild west, is that even in the wild west laws did prevail, but first those who live there have to be prepared to develop laws that suit their environment.

We can not let copyright owners off the hook here. They are profligate in their double standards. They want to be able to be protectionist about what they choose to be and to ignore that which does not suit them because it is too expensive to chase down.

If copyright owners are not prepared to license people like Beatles Tube, and is not prepared to sue them, then clearly Beatles Tube should become a model for others to follow and should be held up as being legitimate in its own way.

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