In a world where most content holders are so quick to blame piracy for all their problems, it's a breath of fresh air to know that Edgar Berger, the international head of Sony Music, thinks the internet has been a boon for the record business. In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, Berger had nothing but praise for what the digital age has done for his industry, stating it had provided "tremendous new opportunities." He also noted that about one-third of Sony's music sales are now digital, and that digital sales have almost compensated for the decline in physical sales.
However, the interview wasn't all positive. Berger said that there are still over ten times as many illegal downloads as legal ones, and that rights holders in some countries are limiting what artists can do. He specifically cited the German performance rights organization GEMA for being far too restrictive with licences, especially when it comes to digital distribution. For example, if you try to watch a Sony artist's music video on YouTube in Germany, you'll find it won't play. This isn't because Sony doesn't want you to see it, but because GEMA's royalty fees are too high. It had been rumored that GEMA was asking for 12 euro cents, about $0.16 US, for each view of an artist's video on YouTube. GEMA represents about 60,000 artists and over a million international copyright holders in Germany, making the potential royalty fees quite high. Google had no interest in paying these, preferring a single flat fee to copyright licensees, as it does in other regions, and so the videos were blocked. Berger said, as he had in the past, that GEMA's strict licensing is leaving millions of dollars on the table for Sony artists, and that eventually the organization will have to join the digital age for economic reasons.
The whole interview is an interesting read. While there's a ways to go to make digital distribution fair for artists, copyright holders, and consumers, it's nice to know someone at the top is acknowledging this.