U2’s manager says the age of illegal downloading is coming to an end

Paul McGuinness claims that internet service providers can bring an end to 'the age of free'

U2 manager Paul McGuinness has claimed that the “age of free” and illegal downloading of music is coming to an end.

In a column written for The Daily Telegraph, he welcomed internet service providers (ISPs) in North America for “taking on obligations to stop copyright thefts on their networks” as “good news”, and insisted that the move from illegitimate to legal methods of purchasing music “will happen over time”.

McGuinness, who has managed U2 since the start of their career, was writing in response to the news that some of the US’s biggest ISPs are set to introduce a system of “copyright alerts” with the music and film industries, which will urge broadband users “away from piracy towards downloading and streaming music from legitimate services”. There will also be the prospect of “deterrent sanctions for those who repeatedly ignore the warnings.”

He compared the new system to the ones currently used in France, South Korea and New Zealand, and also suggested that the UK, which recently passed its Digital Economy Act, would “go down a similar route.”

McGuinness, who has been campaigning on this issue for the past three years and has previously called for ISPs to help stop illegal downloading, said: “This has been agonisingly slow in coming, but it is an important step forward in the international debate over music in the digital age. The idea of ISPs taking on obligations to stop copyright theft on their networks is moving into the mainstream.”

He also claimed that “fighting free with free” was not a viable route to combating illegal downloading, and said that services such as Spotify and We7 had “not much hope of long-term success”.

“For some years, ‘fighting free with free’ seemed the answer to all our problems,” he said. “Today, that honeymoon is over. Spotify, in many countries the champion of the free-to-consumer music streaming service, is now cutting back on its free offering. It is trying to migrate its fans into payers, offering a £10 monthly subscription. That is a huge challenge.”

U2 recently headlined Glastonbury festival, with singer Bono admitting that he felt “sick with nerves” before taking to the stage at Worthy Farm.