Ben asked Robert about what he thought was wrong (and right) with copyright and Levine opined that he felt copyright clearly had problems - but he was reasonably optimistic for the future of music as new services such as Spotify developed. I have to say I am less sure as I am not convinced Spotify helps or realistically remunerates artistes, but Alison Wenham had also earlier talked up Spotify as an improving source of revenues for the business and clearly some (though not all) of the independent labels are now seeing streaming in a more positive light.
Levine explained his view on copyright under three headings - length, breadth and depth. By length he means the copyright term - and Levine thinks copyright terns are far too long. That was simple. By breadth he means what is covered by copyright - and he said he felt reasonable comfortable with the current position (I paraphrase) BUT that certain areas needed re-examination - examples being parody here in the UK and music sampling. By depth Robert means what should and could be enforced where he noted that an increasingly polarised 'tug of war' was going on between content owners and creators on one part, and those in favour of a free and 'open rights' internet on the other side.
Unsurprisingly Google and it's YouTube subsidiary were never far from the discussion, not least as Robert is clearly of the opinion that free is not always good. Levine noted Google's immense power and influence - and noted the influence he clearly felt the internet giant had on the UK's government, not least in the run up to the Hargreaves Review of IP and its ongoing influence in the aggressive campaigns to scrap SOPA, PIPA and ACTA, and any reforms the USA's Digital Millennium Copyright Act. On the latter Levine, asked the question of whether the DCMA really provided a level playing field for commerce, and a 'fair deal' between content owners and technology companies such as Google, YouTube as ISPs and noted that really what YouTube in particular had done was position itself as a new 'gatekeeper' for content going online, legal or otherwise. Last August we had previously noted Robert's views here.
Levine was surprisingly scathing about Creative Commons, firstly noting that it was a 'sloppy' contract based system and then noting that it's board members include the music business development manager at YouTube, and Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin's mother in law Esther Wojcicki, who is a teacher of journalism as well as being the Creative Commons Vice Chair - you learn something new every day! The board also features Caterina Fake,the co-founder of Flickr and Jimmy Wales who founded Wikipedia, although I must say the board also includes a number of academics, lawyers and technology experts - as well as film maker Davis Guggenheim and Annette Thomas the CEO of MacMillan Publishing. Creative Commons - a Google sponsored initiative? Food for thought.
The session ended with a short Question and Answer session with Robert briefly saying that he felt that French Hadopi system probably had made some effect on illegal downloading in France but really he would prefer to see efforts aimed at the likes of MegaUpload and Limewire, and that one way to stop companies such as the credit card payment giants Visa and MasterCard and companies such as Microsoft advertising on infringing sites or processing their ill gotten gains was to name and shame them! Applause for all and then off for the 'chips and beer' party. Good chips too.
I had missed an earlier and much talked about session by King Crimson's Robert Fripp who I am told had given an personal and impassioned account of the horrors of dealing with and (not) being paid by major labels during his long and successful career - but I am reliably told this (and the interview with Robert) will be posted up on the AIM website within the week which can be found at