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Cracking Down on Bootlegs

Making pirate copies of CDs and DVDs just became illegal in Germany. New legislation protects artists and industry from lost profits, but it may also shoot them in the foot.


Gone are the days of free bootlegs from the Internet

Around three billion pirate copies of CDs and DVDs are produced in Germany every year. Now new copyright legislation that came into effect in August has made it illegal to reproduce copy-protected or bootlegged CDs and DVDs in Germany. The ban is meant, in particular, to prevent people from downloading music or films from Internet file-sharing platforms.

The amendment to the law on intellectual property has been lauded both by the music industry and by artists. The "enormous economic damage that the music branch has suffered from intellectual theft over the years" could be fought more effectively, the German Music Publishers' Association announced. It stressed that now everyone should know that there was no legal Internet exchange.

Being fair

The Scorpions, the most successful German band on the international stage, have taken a stand on Internet exchanges. "As a band, the Scorpions, who've been together for thirty years now, have never suffered that much from this phenomenon," band member Matthias Jabs told Deutsche Welle. "But we do have a natural interest in seeing a fair relationship between artists producing the music and customers purchasing it. In whatever form. As long as people are actually paying."

But the Scorpions said they were concerned that the music industry was losing sight of its customers. They said that CDs were too expensive and that made it more attractive for people to download from the Internet at no charge.

"Record companies need to create new structures so as not to lose customers," Rudolf Schenker, another band member said. "Some kind of compromise must be reached to enable people to download music at any time. We have to get closer to our fans and communicate more quickly with them and respond to trends more quickly."

Up to industry

Many consumers use the Internet to track down new music, to get a taste of new bands. Although the industry has developed legal Web sites where consumers can pay for and download music, peer-to peer sites remain much more popular.

Industry would possibly be wise to find a way to allow peer-to-peer Internet exchanges though, since many consumers use the Web to track down and listen to new music.

"It makes it easy to expand my taste in music and listen in to new sounds," Sven Hansen, an editor at the German computer magazine "c't" told Deutsche Welle. "The Internet is the ideal medium for music and it doesn't have to be a disadvantage for the music industry. It means more people listen to music."

But the impetus in now on the industry. With the new law now in effect, people using the Net in Germany ought to think twice before downloading material from Internet exchanges. At the least they could be sued, at the most they could spend three years in jail.

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