Google’s role in the recent campaign against the proposed SOPA anti-piracy legislation in the US came in for a sustained attack by U2’s manager Paul McGuinness this morning, at the Midem conference in Cannes.
“Why are they not trying to solve the future in a more generous way?” he asked.
“Ultimately it is in their interests that the flow of content will continue. And that won’t happen unless it’s paid for. And I don’t think we can rely on politicians who are afraid of being unpopular to accomplish this without some willingness and generosity on the part of the tech area.”
Referring specifically to the anti-SOPA campaign, which included an online petition linked to from Google’s homepage, McGuinness did not mince his words.
“Never underestimate the ability of a monopoly to defend itself,” he said. “The fact that Google were able to turn their entire network into a lobbying device, a petition, does not mean every person who ticked the box understood the argument… It wasn’t really a debate, it was a demonstration really.”
McGuinness also criticised Google for not doing more to strip links to pirated content out of its search engine results.
“It amazes me that Google has not done the right thing. The experience of people when they go on Google and look for U2 music or PJ Harvey music is a shopping list of illegal opportunities to get their music,” he said. “They have done nothing meaningful to discourage that.”
McGuinness had warmer words for licensed streaming music services like Spotify, which he described as “ultimately a good thing”, although that praise came with caveats.
“Is it a means of monetising the distribution of products, or is it a promotional medium? At the moment, I’m inclined to treat it more as a promotional medium. And if we have to choose where to put records on their debut, we’re unlikely to give them to Spotify. I’d rather give it to a DJ on a great station,” he said.
“Spotify has yet to become popular with artists because artists don’t see the financial benefit of working with Spotify. That’s partly the fault of the labels because the labels partly own Spotify, and there is insufficient transparency. But I see no reason why the basic Spotify model shouldn’t be part of the future. It is essentially honest so it should be encouraged. I’d like to see it everywhere.”
McGuinness was talking in a panel session with author Robert Levine, entertainment lawyer Pierre-Marie Bouvery and Qobuz president Yves Riesel. Read our liveblog for the full skinny on the discussion.