Content is king, but not all of it can be free


Robert Ashcroft

Robert Ashcroft, chief executive of the UK's PRS for Music, makes the case for robust copyright rules online.

The digital content debate has been brought into sharp focus recently with the protests around anti-piracy laws in the US. These measures, known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), were aimed at reducing piracy, especially content hosted on foreign sites. They are now on hold.

As the chief executive of an organisation of 85,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers, I naturally have a keen interest in this topic. Music has been the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for digital piracy and the members we represent have suff ered enormously as the small, easily-shared files of their creative works have passed around cyberspace freely, and the nation’s music users have switched their buying habits.

Does this matter, and why should we care? The Internet now provides us with free news, free entertainment, free connections with our friends and families, free search, free maps, and myriad other services which are all free at the point of use. It has changed the way we engage with content, and has changed the way a huge number of people pay for creative works.

Online content, music