Can’t we just get along? Czech file-sharing site reaches out to music industry

News comes from the Czech Republic about a remarkably civil discussion between the operator of a file-sharing Web site and a representative of the music industry.

Ulož.to is the Web site, operated by Jan Karabina. They’ve been threatened with legal action by the Czech branch of IFPI, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, for “abetting illegal downloading”. While the Web site doesn’t proactively check whether their users are engaging in copyright infringement, they do comply with the Czech version of the DMCA, which requires removal of material on request of the copyright holder.

The online music market hasn’t yet taken off in the Czech Republic, but the industry realizes it needs to. More important, they seem willing to drop their “piracy” fixation:

Digital music accounted for only 12 percent of all music sales last year, but the rapid growth has been noticed by large distribution companies and independent artists alike, and both are increasingly willing to forego pressed CDs for digital-only sales, and are gradually less apprehensive about piracy.

And so a few days ago, Ulož.to approached IFPI to discuss selling music on the site. In a concession to reality that’s unusual on this side of the Atlantic, Czech IFPI Director Petra Žikovská says she welcomes such discussions:

“Digital music is the future of the music industry — if it has a future at all.”

Artists also recognize the net-plus value of digital. Nironic, an American performer who lives in the Czech Republic and whose songs have been “illegally downloaded thousands of times”, says:

“With the power of digital music, you can reach a much broader base of fans than you can with a pressed CD. When you go digital, you can compete at the bare market value because you can price your music in a way that is very competitive but still beneficial for you as an artist.”

On the other side, site operator Karabina knows the secret of competing with free:

“If an adequate supply of legal content is available, people will have no reason not to buy it. The future lies in systemic change, but the question is how long we will have to wait for it.”

That strangely familiar music you’re hearing? It’s Kumbaya.


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