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Free Downloads Not Illegal Say British Rock Stars

It's not something that you might ordinarily expect, but a group of high profile British musicians have joined together to lobby for the relaxation of laws that currently prohibit individuals from downloading illegal music from the internet.

The Featured Artists Coalition

Calling themselves the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), the group has over 140 of our home-grown music stars including Robbie Williams, Annie Lennox, regular activist Billy Bragg and Radiohead's Ed O'Brien. They claim that the majority of the group's members are critical of prosecutions being brought against individuals who may not have followed the legal routes to downloading music from the internet. They believe that commercial sites such as YouTube and MySpace should be required to pay royalties to artists when their music is used for advertising purposes. They also seek cooperation from the government for the creation of a "nationwide education programme", which they propose will offer guidance to young hopefuls and artists.

Lord Carter, who recently caused furore within the industry for his condemnation of illegal downloads, is someone the FAC hope to meet. They fear that the government's determination to criminalise the audience is too protectionist. The FAC aims to give a collective voice to artists who want to fight for their rights on the web and negotiate a fairer deal for musicians at a time when the internet is so crucial to linking with their fans. They demand that the music artists be the ones to say how their music rights should be used and when to charge for it. David Gray, Fran Healy from Travis, Pink Floyd's Nick Mason and Mick Jones from The Clash all turned up to the coalition's inaugural meeting.

Free Downloads Stalemate

Earlier this month Google terminated UK internet access to most music videos on YouTube when their negotiations with the Performing Rights Society, which collects royalties for musicians, reached a stalemate. In only January last year came the announcement that an unlimited supply of free and legal songs would be made available to individuals in an attempt to eradicate illegal web sharing that had been prevalent for over a decade. The music industry has embraced the downloading movement, albeit reluctantly, as CD sales are no longer at their original levels and legal downloads are constantly bypassed for the free options. James Blunt was heard to describe downloading as a means by which "people steal music", which needless to say did nothing for his popularity. Nokia and iTunes now offer free downloads using the "peer-to-peer" network, enabling the individual to download popular hit songs but also rarities and live tracks from leading worldwide artists. Several music sales companies are desperate to move across to subscription-based sales agreements rather than rely on disappointing one-off CD and download sales.

In the meantime, those who rely on free and illegal downloads to keep their MP3 players up to date can merely sit and hope that the FAC enjoy some success in their demands. It was reported in Summer 2008 that an average British teenager has no less than 800 illegal downloads stored on their iPods, and the introduction of 3G mobile phones with built in players has only encouraged the number of illegal downloads.

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© April 2009

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