It appears that the big record companies are at it again! Universal Music and Warner Music Group are urging advertisers to boycott a Chinese search engine (Baidu.com), due to claims Baidu encourages copyright infringement (read the full article here). They estimate that they are only receiving 20% of the revenue they would expect from China's music industry, and that 99% of their music is believed to be pirated.
Recently, it appears that attention has shifted from peer to peer (p2p) file sharing software, to either individuals or in this case, search engines. In Australia, the case of A&N Records v Napster, MGM v Grokster, and Universal Music v Sharman License (Kazaar Case), it was found that although p2p softare has legitimate uses, providing a means for illegally copyrighted files went well beyond the the US 'fair use'. However, it appears that p2p are now taking heed of such cases, and implementing steps to prevent themselves from suffering the same fate. In the Napster case, the decision appeared to turn on the presence of a central index, which prevented them from denying any knowledge of copyright infringement. Many p2p file sharing programs now divert responsibility by giving warnings (see Universal Music v Sharman License), and ensuring that there is no central index. After the RIAA's controversial law suits against individuals, it appears that the record companies are beginning to grasp at straws by targeting yet another source.
Following the massive success of Grand Theft Auto IV with profits in excess of $500 million, perhaps it is time for the record companies to review their business plan. Consumers appear to be willing to pay for some forms of entertainment, so perhaps it has something to do with the 'quality' of the product they are marketing. Consumers are purchasing more items online, and with much music sold online riddled with Data Rights Management (DRM) protection, it is no wonder consumers are resorting to piracy. If someone had to choose between music which they have to pay for, but the music cannot be moved once it is downloaded (these includes burning the music onto a disk for personal use, or loading the music onto your MP3 player), or music which is free without any restrictions, it is not difficult to see why consumers choose to download the pirated version. I do not think it is fair that consumers receive music for free, however I do firmly believe that rather than resisting the new technology available to consumers, they should be embracing it by letting of of business plans which are long obsolete.