McGuinness: ISPs should fix my business

The chorus of voices clamoring for someone else to fix the music business continues to grow. The latest installment was a speech at the Midem music industry conference by U2’s longtime manager Paul McGuinness, in which he called on ISPs — and pretty much every major company in Silicon Valley, including Apple, Google and Facebook — to drop whatever they’re doing and come to the rescue of the recorded music business. As Mike Masnick notes over at Techdirt, his arguments are so wrong-headed that it’s difficult to know where to start in critiquing them.

Mike mentions the first thing that popped into my head when I read McGuinness’s speech: this is exactly the same argument that the newspaper industry has made on several occasions, about how Google and Yahoo and other companies are “stealing” their content or making money “off their backs,” or some such nonsense. The various newspaper industry groups haven’t mentioned ISPs specifically, but probably because they didn’t think of it. I’m sure they’re kicking themselves now.

By McGuinness’s logic (read the full text of his speech), ISPs should be blocking every pirated copy of a song — i.e., every one that doesn’t bear some kind of watermark (the U2 manager also happens to be an investor in a company that does just that). If you try to download or upload a pirated file three times, he says, your Internet account should be suspended. But why stop at music? I could see the movie business getting on board — not to mention every other content business.

And what about other types of illegal content, such as pornography or bomb-making materials, or even just a short story about someone who wants to kill the President? Maybe ISPs should block those as well, and cut off the Internet accounts of anyone who shares such material. Maybe we should extend it to any type of hate speech, including blog posts about Muslims, or Catholics, or women, or homosexuals. McGuinness would probably say that sounds like a great idea.

After all, who wants freedom of information or freedom of speech? That’s right — hippies. McGuinness drops the blame for virtually all of the music industry’s problems at the feet of the hippies who started this whole Internet thing in the first place. I’m sure as far as he’s concerned we’d all be a lot better off if it had never been invented. Then people could listen to the radio and buy overpriced CDs, the way that God intended.

Further reading:

— Farhad Manjoo at Salon.
Nate Anderson at Ars Technica.

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