New EMI Head of Digital Admits That P2P Not Worth Suing Fans Over

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The new head of digital strategy for EMI comes not from a rival label or up through the ranks of the music business, but from one of the worlds largest online companies and biggest digital innovators - Google. Douglas Merrill was the Chief Information Officer at Google and is now president of EMI's digital group.

The move seems to indicate that EMI is serious about rethinking their approach to digital distribution and Merrill definitely brings a new sensibility to the major label environment.

In an interview with CNET, Merrill admitted that:
there's a set of data that shows that file sharing is actually good for artists. Not bad for artists. Obviously, there is piracy that is quite destructive but again I think the data shows that in some cases file sharing might be okay. What we need to do is understand when is it good, when it is not good...Suing fans doesn't feel like a winning strategy.
Merrill may have been refering to a study out of the University of North Carolina  from 2004, or a more recent study by the Industry Canada. Both studies claim that casual peer-to-peer file sharing had not had a negative impact on sales of recordings, infact the Canadian study suggests that there is a positive correlation between file sharing and music purchasing. They attribute the downturn in music sales to other factors.

When asked about new models for digital music delivery, Merrill says:
I think there is going to be a lot of different models. [Subscriptions and ISP fees] are two you can imagine. I'm not sure that either one of those will be the most dominant model. But they are both interesting. We should try them and see what the data says. Other options will be things like you can imagine supporting music through relevant targeted ads, the Google model. There is a dozen of other things...we should try them all. We should see what the data says and whatever it says, we should follow the data, and follow our users and let them help guide us. We should engage in a broad conversation about art.


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