Don't monkey around with new ideas

For proof of how innovation can go badly wrong, just look to Sheffield

It is always sad to report abuses of technology, especially when they threaten an industry. But this week has seen the true evil of file sharing laid bare — and the implications for all of us have been made clear.

The Arctic Monkeys, a Yorkshire beat combo, have been the biggest victims of this sordid business, and it's all been through their own stupidity. They actually gave away CD-Rs of their music — all of it — at their own concerts. Then they compounded the madness by encouraging their young, digitally literate fan base to actually make it all available at no cost over file sharing networks.

As any big record label will tell you, this is commercial suicide. By the time the first album was commercially released last week, every note had been globally available, for free, for months.

Fortunately, the BPI is active in preventing such lunacy. It's taken two file sharers to court, last week landing them with a £20,000 bill, a move calculated to show the tens of millions of others just how likely they are to get caught.

Such measures are very necessary. By industry logic, every file shared is a sale lost. Those sad Monkeys must be kicking themselves — just think how much bigger their record-breaking first week sales figures of 360,000 albums would have been if they had prosecuted their would-be customers too. Every man, woman and child in the country would by now have bought five copies: instead, penury and obscurity await. You will never hear of them again.

We are lucky that wiser heads are in charge of the industry, and that these same heads are planning how to introduce powerful, widespread and legally mandated restrictions on how all digital equipment can operate. Bitter disappointment awaits those who think that revolutionary new technologies can lead to revolutionary new ways of doing business; at all costs, the current channels of control and distribution must be maintained.

Britain's phonographic industry must be preserved — as must every other existing and entrenched technology industry. More control, more patents, more lawyers and fewer freedoms are badly needed to encourage innovation and ensure the terrible tragedy of the Monkeys is not repeated in any other sphere where creativity matters.