RIANZ chief responds to music downloading debate

By Joanna Hunkin

Digital downloading is killing our music industry - or is it?

That's the million dollar question that has seen debates erupt around the country, consuming radio airwaves and internet forums over the past week.

Last week music manager and RIANZ chief executive Campbell Smith told Parliament's commerce select committee that local record sales were suffering because of illegal music downloading.

On Monday, media commentator Russell Brown entered the debate, challenging Smith's claims and critiquing the RIANZ select committee submission.

Yesterday, Smith sent the following statement to the Herald, in response to Brown's comments and general public sentiment.

"The point I made in my submission to the select committee last week was that copyright theft harms copyright creators - including major record companies, independent record companies, local record companies, recording artists, publishers and songwriters - in a very real way.

"If you steal music, none of these people get paid for your consumption of that music. To say that stealing music is okay by way of thumbing your nose at big record companies is naive at best, cynical at worst.

"Artists contracted to record companies (and most of them are) earn income as a percentage of record company earnings. If the record company isn't getting paid, neither is the artist.

"Nothing I have seen or heard in response to my comments or the RIANZ/IMNZ submission from any media, commentators (including Mr Brown) or the public has been relevant to that point I was making to the select committee. Nothing has been said that can adequately counter the position that copyright theft (i.e unauthorised file sharing or downloading) is theft, it is morally wrong, it is illegal and it harms people.

"Advances in technology have provided the copyright creator and the copyright consumer with terrific opportunities. The music industry must move with the times, must adapt business models to ensure that it is providing the consumer with access to music as the consumer wants, when he/she wants, how he/she wants. The consumer in return must pay a fair price for that consumption. Copyright law must provide an environment that nurtures creativity and protects consumer interest. I do not see a place for copyright theft in that equation and my point was that copyright law reform needs to strongly reflect that. And that would be for the public good."

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