Critics: EU in pocket of big-music interests

The copyright debate around digital music is now focussing on proposed EU policy.

European Union copyright policy on the Net is being unfairly influenced by the big five media companies, according to a consortium of leading Internet entrepreneurs. On Tuesday one member accused the EU of indirectly funding the music industry's controversial Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI).

According to media management consultant David Philipson, EU money given to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has found its way into SDMI coffers. Philipson accuses EU policy-makers of being in the pocket of the "big five" (BMG, EMI, Polygram, Time Warner and Sony), and claims the EU's proposed copyright directive will also support SDMI.

"The proposed EU copyright directive will provide a legal framework for what in effect is a monopolistic structure. Business ideas not compatible with SDMI will be killed off," Philipson said. "The copyright proposals actually threaten the free and open nature of the Web."

Philipson is a founding member of savetheweb.org, a consortium of Internet entrepreneurs who intend to lobby the European parliament on its Internet legislation. The organisation accuses the copyright lobby of attempting to extend existing rights on the Internet. "They are saying that copying liability should be put on ISPs and are demanding technical protection measures be enforced by everyone on the Internet," Philipson explained. He believes holding ISPs liable is unfair as they have little control over the content they provide. "ISPs and telecom companies will be forced to censor or filter content," he said.

IFPI's director of technology, Paul Jessop, denies that making ISPs liable for content is holding providers to ransom. "If they remain immune they will have no incentive to discuss the issue. It is only holding a threat to them in the same way as they are holding a threat to us. We want them to work with us to establish a technical standard and offer co-operation," he said.

Jessop also denies IFPI money was used to fund the SDMI project. "That is not quite true. The recording industry in Europe were involved in a project called MUSE and the body of knowledge we had has been adapted for use in SDMI," he said.

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