Industry officials, U prof debate music uploading

by Jens Krogstad

Universal Music Group representatives and University rhetoric professor John Logie shared perspectives on Internet music uploading at an event Thursday that ended in heated argument.

Logie agreed with David Benjamin, senior vice president of Universal’s anti-piracy unit, that illegally uploading music is morally wrong and illegal, but he said the industry is making mistakes in the way it responds. Students agreed, saying music executives have been too quick to blame them for the industry’s struggles.

Logie said the music industry could help its cause by changing its approach to the problem. He said the first step should be to discontinue the use of “anti-piracy” because of the term’s criminal and violent connotations.

He said only when uploads are substitutions for potential purchases do they become illegal, and the law should be changed to reflect that. He cited cases, including one of a 12-year-old girl, in which innocent people have been targets of the industry’s copyright lawsuits.

Logie said the music industry’s combative attitude toward up-loaders and its customers reminds people why they do not like music companies.

All this, he said, has resulted in a “massive failure to persuade” the public to take the music industry’s side.

Universal representatives said after the meeting that despite being responsible for the songs people love, the music industry has a bad image.

Benjamin said students are hurting themselves by illegally downloading music off the Internet – which he said is a “rampant strip-mining of our cultural heritage.”

He said people who intend to write, make music or work in the industry are hurt. Consumers would also be hurt and have fewer choices in music stores if uploading goes unchecked.

Jeff Bronikowksi, vice president for business development at Universal, said the music industry has been hurt by file-sharing and that he cannot understand why the illegal act is tolerated.

“Where’s the outrage? If people were at gas stations stealing gas, George (W.) Bush himself would be out there shooting people,” he said.

Benjamin said the music industry is not making money off lawsuits because the lawsuits are only meant to deter illegal music uploading.

“I know it’s fun to screw the man,” he said. “But we’re on the same side – we both love music.”

Students said the argument had a hollow ring because of Universal’s accusations that students in the audience were to blame for the problem.

“It’s hard to say we’re all in the same boat while pointing a finger at us,” said Dave Rosen, a science and technology communications senior. “His points might have been better received if he had been more civil about it.”

Benjamin dominated the 90-minute event by speaking for 60 minute, and interrupted Logie’s presentation numerous times.

At one point, an exasperated Logie looked at the Universal representatives and said, “Excuse me gentlemen, I do not recall interrupting during your presentation.”