U2 manager takes ISPs to task

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CANNES -- Paul McGuinness, longtime manager of rock band U2, has called on Internet service providers to immediately introduce disconnection policies to end illegal music downloads and for governments to make sure they do.

In a passionate keynote speech delivered Monday during the International Managers Summit at Midem, McGuinness said it was time for artists to stand up against what he called the "shoddy, careless and downright dishonest way they have been treated in the digital age."

He spread the blame between record labels that "through lack of foresight and planning allowed a range of industries to arise that let people steal music"; Silicon Valley companies that create marvelous devices but "don't think of themselves as makers of burglary kits"; and governments who "created a thieves charter" by agreeing that ISPs should not be responsible for what passes along their pipes.

"There's a lot of money in the music business but it has stopped coming to the artists," McGuinness said, though he agreed that U2 long ago determined that it "would be pathetic to be great artists but not be great at business."

Decrying ISPs that hold up their hands in innocence when music is downloaded via their systems, he offered a comparison.

"If you were a magazine advertising stolen cars, handling the money for stolen cars and seeing to the delivery of stolen cars, the police would soon be at your door," he said. "That's no different to an ISP, but they say they can't do anything about it. If you steal a laptop from a store or don't pay for your broadband service, you'll soon be cut off and nicked."

To great applause from the audience of music managers, McGuinness insisted that disconnection enforcement would work. "I call on ISPs to do two things. First, protect the music, and second, to make a genuine effort to share the enormous revenues. They should share their ingenuity as well as the money. We must shame them. Their snouts have been at our trough for too long."

Later, rock star Peter Gabriel added his support, agreeing that a lot of money is being made out of music by ISPs. He expressed concern, though, about blanket deals.

"The trouble with any blanket agreement is that the money doesn't tend to trickle down to the artists," he said at a news conference. "We've all be told in the past about these kinds of deals and we never see it in our accounts. It needs to be not just verbiage. It needs to express itself in money too."

Gabriel arrived in Cannes for a banquet honoring him as Midem's 2008 Personality of the Year with a cast on his left leg following a skiing mishap. "I hit a rock," he said, "and I used to think of myself as a rock artist."
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