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Robbie WilliamsIn an article in The Times in 1999, I made a number of predictions about how the music and entertainment industry may be forced to rethink the way its financial model is so heavily dependent on rights in past performances and back catalogues. The news released earlier this month that the British record industry has just experienced its biggest sales decline in decades, with piracy being cited as the main factor, shows that sadly much of what I predicted is starting to come true.

At the time of writing, we talked about the industry’s halcyon days BC (Before Computers), when the entertainment industry aggressively protected its original catalogue material and conventional business wisdom focused on three things: rights, rights and rights. We contrasted this with the brave new world AD (After Digitisation), with its accelerated pace of technological development and the growth of mass piracy that constantly walks in its shadow, and we asked a big question: will this seismic shift in the marketplace eventually turn the focus of music, film and games producers away from the notion of protecting its copyright at all costs?

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