Today, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released its report highlighting markets around the world in which the theft of U.S. intellectual property is open and notorious (see our news release here). Included in its report were a number of online sites that have a uniquely prejudicial impact on the ability to develop viable legitimate online music marketplaces in some key territories, and whose practices are particularly intolerable. There are three in particular that jump off the page: Russia’s vKontakte, Ukraine’s ex.ua, and Vietnam’s Zing.
While sites such as the Pirate Bay or Brazil’s Degraçaémaisgostoso.org (the English translation of which is “Free is much better”) may, in some respects, be more overtly hostile to creators, Russia’s vKontakte, Ukraine’s ex.ua and Vietnam’s Zing are particularly notorious inasmuch as they occupy central places in the e-lives of the citizenry of their respective countries. These are companies that should be licensed distributors sustaining creators rather than opportunistic pirates robbing their countries of innovation and creativity. They should be contributing to the economic and cultural welfare of their societies. They have made conscious business decisions to profit by providing access to infringing materials. Sadly, the world will always have its Pirate Bays championing ill-considered forms of cyber-anarchism, but it should not have central online actors that coldly and rationally choose theft as a business model.
The music industry is at a very interesting and exciting inflection point. Authorized music delivery platforms are being introduced or expanded around the globe, providing more and more options to users, both in terms of the diversity of music as well as the range of access models from which to choose. From permanent downloads to streams to everything in between, there has never been a greater time to be a music consumer. But to maintain this growth of services, and to sustain the creative community that produces content, it is critical that societies address the unfair competition posed by the operation of unauthorized services. At one time, some people justified piracy due to the unavailability of content through licensed platforms. Regardless of the legitimacy of such arguments at that time, there can be no question that those arguments no longer hold water in today’s diverse music marketplace. Access to legitimate music has never been as easy, inexpensive and ubiquitous. There is simply no excuse for operating a service based on providing access to infringing music, and we hope that the companies named in today’s USTR report will take prompt action and become part of a community that empowers creators.