PR 101 according to IFPI Finland 22:14 on Monday

After nearly seven months of having my site down, I finally got it back thanks to some expert server side help. Almost in time to start taking part in the titillating discussion about the new copyright law, which actually got passed in the Grand Committee already. The law still needs to pass one more phase (plenary session) in the Parliament before being considered final. The debate of last week started from the news of 600 Finnish artists pleading for the Parliament to pass the law on making it illegal to bypass copy protection systems. It was quickly followed by a lot of consumer feedback in different media, and soon an open letter reply from IFPI Finland (ÄKT). But ÄKT didn’t quite get their act right. Here comes the grand list of ÄKT public relations achievements for the week 38 of the year 2005:
  • Possibly source Finnish News Agency (STT) with the news of 600 artists supporting copy protection schemes. That ÄKT was behind the bogus news-bit is not a fact but a pure guess by yours truly. The timing was a bit too convenient for them though.
  • Issue “an appeal to stop the false claims and too late public discussion”. The appeal basically told the public to shut up and stop whining. What a great way to dialogue with the very people who provide artists, performers and record companies with all the money to run the whole music industry.
  • Include false technical claims in the appeal.
  • Include claims in the appeal, that conflicts with the wording of a notice from the Ministry of Education (who have prepared the new copyright law).
  • Include claims, that conflict with the actual text of the law. At this point of reading the appeal I was in complete agreement of the need to stop discussing with false claims.
  • Include at least one artist without permission in the “signed by” list of people.
  • After Sara Nunes posted a note on her site about her opposing views, her name was pulled from the appeal without a note of modification or a public apology.
  • Meanwhile ÄKT’s Tommi Kyyrä announced his undying love for the latest 1980s technology on the Tietokone magazine website, saying: “…listening to music on the computer is something extra. … If you are now using Linux or a Mac, I recommend getting a basic CD-player.”
  • As they noted on the list of signatories, rewriting history is so delightfully easy on the internet. In a couple of hours they realised it was the year 2005 and persuaded (or pressured, as Jyrki J. Kasvi would put it) Tietokone to remove the luddite blurb.
  • Had their site “down for maintenance” for at least two days in the middle of all the heat.
So why do I care if ÄKT messes up? Because the inevitable consumer backlash will be targeted against copyright organisations. With “backlash” I’m not talking about a flood of email, but more of the negative image consumers will have of the copyright organisations and copyrights in general. Kind of the “brand value” of copyright, copyright owners, and the organisations that represent them. I care because I am a copyright owner. I am an artist represented by copyright organisations for composers (Teosto) and performing musicians (Gramex). My company also produces records and it’s copyrights are represented by Gramex, too. ÄKT on the other hand is a trade association representing around 20 of the biggest record producing companies in Finland, which equals almost 90% of the total music market in Finland. ÄKT is one of the three members of Gramex. If all that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. The point is that ÄKT does not represent artists or performers, it represents record labels. For the general public though, all these names are just “the copyright organisations”, and whichever organisation people happen to know by name, that organisation will get the blame. I would bet it’s most often Teosto. This way, the damage of ÄKT’s careless actions will be against the copyright owners. In the last couple of years Teosto has used probably around one million euros of copyright owners’ money to polish their image. What is the price of ÄKTs appeal measured in Teosto’s brand value? Should Teosto claim compensation from ÄKT?

So what was the real story about the 600 artists?

Those artists did sign their own appeal in support of the new copyright law, but it was in last April and it didn’t mention copy protection systems at all. It was about stopping illegal sharing of music over the internet, stopping the import of pirate CDs, granting copyrights for spiritual music and guaranteeing copyright royalties from music video playback. STT posted a correction of the news in two days.

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