Speck goes -- what's next?

commentary Say what you like about Michael Speck -- he's been effective.Speck tendered his resignation as head of the music industry's piracy investigations unit this week, saying he wanted to do things that he could not up until now because he was so busy.

commentary Say what you like about Michael Speck -- he's been effective.

Speck tendered his resignation as head of the music industry's piracy investigations unit this week, saying he wanted to do things that he could not up until now because he was so busy. Busy that is, going to war on several fronts against music piracy, real and alleged, physical and virtual. An extremely capable and media-savvy operator, Speck made real headway into raising public consciousness about piracy and forced many who were quite comfortable ignoring the issue into publicly stating their opposition to it. However, he leaves the unit at a crucial time -- with plenty of litigation still underway and the government signalling it may well legalise personal copying.

Your correspondent wonders, however, just how much support Speck received from the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) and the heavyweight multinationals of the music business. (One of the Australian music industry's leading analysts has little doubt, as you can read here).

It is interesting to see to what extent the music companies and ARIA themselves were prepared to lift their heads above the trenches on the piracy issue. They must be well aware of the fact that while they are pursuing a legitimate concern in terms of music piracy, they are hardly in line to secure too much public sympathy on the issue. There remain serious doubts as to whether online piracy is in fact costing the music industry sales rather than fuelling interest and buying of music.

Nevertheless, one wonders whether Speck's departure will see a shift in the industry's stance to date in Australia that individuals will not be sued for copyright infringement for unauthorised downloading of music. It is, of course, far too early to tell whether ARIA's stakeholders or Speck's replacement will take the course undertaken by ARIA's equivalents in the United States and United Kingdom and issue a blizzard of letters, writs etc to individuals. It would certainly get the message across, but at a social and no doubt political cost to the music companies. The industry's strategy post-Speck definitely bears watching.

What do you think of Speck and the music industry's efforts? E-mail us at edit@zdnet.com.au and let us know.

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