CD burning: who loses out?

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CD burning and Internet file-sharing are having a negative impact on the Australian music industry, despite the misconception that it's 'harmless', according to a music industry executive.

Research commissioned by the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) found that about 3.6 million Australians had illegally burnt a music CD in the six month period prior to the research.

In addition, the Quantum Market Research study estimated that about 3.4 million Australians had illegally downloaded music files via file-sharing services.

Stephen Peach, chief executive officer at ARIA, told iTnews that he was surprised at the level of participation in file-sharing, particularly given that he saw broadband penetration as being lower in Australia than the US.

“The other concerning outcome were the awareness and attitudinal points,” Peach said. “An enormous number of people didn't see any sort of equivalence to stealing CDs out of a store to taking them off the Internet.”

“If it [file-sharing and burning CDs] goes unchecked, it can only get worse,” Peach warned.

However, Peach believed that no single solution was going to work. In some countries, such as the US, there have been high-profile litigation against Internet uploaders that copied music files. While he said that ARIA was keeping an eye on developments internationally, he hoped “the situation doesn't get to the point where we have to consider these issues and questions”.

Peach also saw other solutions to the issue, such as CD copy protection—embedded into the audio CD—which have been introduced by some companies into Australia this year.

“Levels of CD burning and Internet file-sharing are significant in Australia, and having a real impact on sales of legitimate music,” Peach argued.

As well as the impact on owners of the music, there are also legal issues involved in copying music CDs and Internet file-sharing.

Matthew Hall, partner of the IT practice group at law firm Phillips Fox, argued that consumers need to be aware that what they are dealing with may be copyrighted works, and that they may be infringing the author's rights by making unauthorised copies.

“I think that most consumers are not aware that the burning of a CD is an infringement of copyright in some way,” Hall said.

Hall is involved in a review of the 2001 Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act for the Commonwealth Attorney-General's department, due to be submitted to Government early next year.

The review is looking at current use of technological protection measures, and rights management information, according to information on Phillips Fox's Web site.

According to Hall, one of the issues it would be looking at as part of this review was the awareness of conduct by consumers.

“I think that if the recording industry and the motion picture industry continue to take a very aggressive stand on their rights against consumers…then the issues will come to a head one way or another—people will either change their habits or there will be a consumer backlash,” Hall said.

Hall said that a paper outlining the issues in the review would be released within the next couple of weeks, with a period of public consultation until September.

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