Friday, 23 December 2016

Acts Are Not Law

Acts are not law, which is why they are called "Acts". They are optional. If you want them to be law, you can agree to them, which makes a contract.  But you don't have to. And even if you do agree (because you made a mistake about your rights, for example) you can get out of that contract by making a complaint. 

So, your local council can give you a parking ticket under an Act, and if you don't agree to it you can just post it back to them with a note saying, "I don't agree," so there is no contract.  If you paid in the past because you didn't know this, you can make a complaint and get your money back.

Same with council tax, and other taxes like income tax. They are just optional requests to pay, and if you've paid by mistake or because you didn't know about this, you can just make a complaint.

This is why Theresa May can take Britain out of the EU any time she likes, because the British parliament only joined under its own Act. There was no contract, because only people in Britain can agree to Acts and the EU is based in Brussels. She says she wants Britain out by March, but really she is just delaying because she's a Remainer and didn't like the vote. She hopes people will change their minds, so we should just have an election to get a government that will take us out.

If you've read this far, then I hope you've felt the same rising sense of panic that I did when some bloke told me the first three paragraphs worth of this horseshit last night (at the end of which he said, "Education is a fine thing, eh?"). The rest I extrapolated based on his special world view, and that of a van driver who told Channel 4 news that Britain could have already left the EU and absolutely must do so by March, "no Article 50, no ifs, no buts". 

It seems most people believe that everything in their head is true. They then look for validation among their family and friends. Their more appealing ideas spread like a virus and are eventually fed back to them in the tabloids and the social media and by politicians who will do anything for more votes, even if it means ignoring the constitution, court rulings they don't like and the rule of law.

We live in an idiocracy

Friday, 18 November 2016

Whither the UK's Implementation of #PSD2?

It's still a case of 'hurry up and wait' on the transposition of PSD2 into UK law. 

The Treasury had initially said it would issue the consultation paper on transposing PSD2 into UK law in August 2016, but nothing forthcoming as at 3pm today. In mid-October, the Treasury told a stakeholder meeting at the FCA that the paper was "being finalized" with no public explanation for the delay (though one could readily speculate that Brexit related projects might be a key distraction!). 

Officials have my deepest sympathy, but it's a little more frustrating because the European Banking Authority has moved forward with consultation on certain regulatory standards related to strong authentication and communication amongst PSPs, passporting, authorization and so on.

The EBA's proposed standards associated with authentication, in particular, have drawn a fair degree of criticism from the industry and European Parliament, partly for assumptions concerning the nature of payment initiation and account information services, as well as their inflexibility and the extent to which they perhaps give the incumbent 'account servicing' PSPs more control than PSD2 was intended to allow.  It will be interesting to see whether the concerns are reflected in the next iteration, expected in December/January (although they do not take effect until at least October 2018 to allow for development work).

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

May Won't Commit #Article50 Suicide

The cost of the Brexit referendum decision has finally begun to erode household confidence, even though Brexit hasn't even actually happened and the worst is yet to come. So you can bet the Tories will be preparing themselves for yet another U-turn as the costs and related uncertainty increase. Even they must now realise that triggering Article 50 would be committing economic suicide, pure and simple, and I doubt that even Theresa May will be fool enough to pull that trigger come her phoney deadline of March 2017. By then all but the most ardent 'BeLeavers' will have come to their senses, and the polls and regional high streets will be fearing the worst. UKIP has already imploded not because it has achieved what it set out to, but because what it set out to achieve has been demonstrated to be a very bad idea.

We know now that the Leave campaign was built on a tissue of lies, from the 'gross' figure of £350m a week, to the promise of extra spending on the NHS, to the idea that the UK can thrive economically on net migration of 100,000 people a year or lose any of the 1.5m EU citizens working in Britain today who would have to leave under the rules applied to non-EU migrants (even plans to publish lists of foreign workers have fallen flat). Indeed, the UK faces having to pay the EU billions for Brexit (at a poor exchange rate), not only to 'true-up' the UK's current EU budget contributions, but also if it is to secure any preferential access to EU markets (although that is not just a question of money, but of free movement of people etc). 

We also know that in reality the EU has no control over the major areas of government expenditure - social welfare, health, education, defence, public order, housing, transport. These are policy areas that the UK continues to screw up all by itself. And it's dawned on the UK's poorest regions that they rely on EU grants that Whitehall will not be set up to maintain after the current EU budget expires in 2020.  

And all the 'silly rules' on bananas etc that the Leavers complained about are international trade rules, not attacks on British 'sovereignty'. The UK would still have to play by those rules if it wants to engage in international trade.

Finally, we know that the UK imports more than it exports and that investment in Britain's export opportunities have relied on trade deals that the EU has achieved over decades by offering a market of 500m people - the world's largest economy, the world's largest trading bloc, the world's largest trader of manufactured goods and services and the top trading partner for 80 countries. We've learned that it would take the UK over 2 years to drive its own deals, and it will have to take what's offered because it can only offer a market of 60m - the 21st on the list of the world's most populous countries and right next door to the world's biggest trade bloc. Yet the UK can't even sign any trade deals until it has left the EU, which is scheduled to take two years. So investors would be waiting nearly 5 years to see what returns they might get for investing in British export industries that would be facing their biggest ever test. They would surely invest elsewhere in that timeframe. That would mean insufficient investment for export targets to be met. The trade deficit would worsen as the UK imported more (and at a poor exchange rate). Prices would go up, but incomes would not. The government wouldn't be able to raise more in taxes and wouldn't be able to borrow at low rates anymore (that credit rating is only going one way), so many more difficult spending decisions and cuts would loom.

For Boris Johnson to continue to insist that the UK will achieve better trade deals on its own in these circumstances is the same kind of fraud we saw painted on his big red bus: serving up any old lie that people can use to justify their blind, ignorant, nationalistic fervour, rooted only in the dust of an Empire long gone and, ironically, a genetic hotch-potch that has more in common with the French, Germans, Danes and Belgians than anyone else. It is just vacuous, populist politics, and an exercise in narcissism - like making the decision whether or not to back Brexit by writing his own newspaper articles either way and then taking the course suggested by what he thought was his own better article.

But you can't eat nationalistic fervour. It doesn't make your fuel cheaper or cut the price of whatever else you buy with ingredients that have to be imported. And you won't be able to 'buy British' when the UK, like Switzerland, is forced to open its market for 15 years before bigger trading partners open theirs. Competing home industries will be crushed, along with the related jobs.

So, somehow, the Tories have to find a way to avoid triggering Article 50, and it's my bet they will.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Little Interest in Pre-Article 50 #Brexit Discussions With British EC Staff?

The crowdfunding campaign against the ban on British European Commission staff, in particular, discussing Brexit plans with UK officials before the UK triggers Article 50 has raised less than a tenth of the £35,000 target from only 109 people, with 18 days to go.

The campaign is intended to attack the ban on all EC staff announced by EC President Jean-Claude Juncker in June: "No notification, no negotiation."

But it seems few people are interested in pushing the issue. Perhaps another reason for doubting that the UK will ever be adequately prepared to trigger Article 50?

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Economic Impact of #Brexit (If Any) Is Years Away...

Not a day goes by without someone declaring that the economic  impact of Brexit has been either overestimated or is being underestimated. 

This has to be utter rubbish. 

The UK is still in the EU. Situation normal. Nothing has changed. Changes in the economic data must be due to other causes.

While the impact of the referendum itself - and the related political nonsense - might have affected some figures, I don't see how the actual impact of the UK leaving the EU could be reflected in any way. 

When might any impact be felt, if ever?

Not only is the UK still waiting to decide exactly when to trigger the formal two year 'Article 50' leaving process, but it is also still trying to figure out the list of issues that need to be resolved and the appropriate negotiating strategy and tactics to resolve them favourably (if possible), not to mention how to recruit the people who are supposed to be doing the negotiating. 

Personally, I doubt the UK is capable of getting this done in any conceivable time frame, and to trigger the Article 50 process without figuring these things out would be insane. So it would not surprise me if the UK never actually manages to trigger the Article 50 process (the wisest course). 

Which would mean Brexit itself would have zero economic impact. 

There may be economic volatility while the implications of triggering Article 50 are being worked through, but that would still not really be the result of actual Brexit. The referendum experience has shown that people don't really look beyond the horizon, so they would not be reacting to an actual decision either way, just the trigger decision itself.

If the UK does manage to trigger Article 50, then we would see another burst of economic volatility while everyone digests (the madness of) that decision and what it might mean when the leaving process is complete. The chief issue would be whether the UK would be able to complete the necessary negotiations within the two year time limit, in order to avoid the default trade position (the worst case, unless of course the UK manages to negotiate an even worse set of deals than that - not inconceivable!).

There would then be all sorts of fresh economic volatility during the two year Article 50 period, while everyone reacts to the latest news about each of the trade negotiations might affect them and their sectors. Speculators would have fun, but everyone else would need to wait and see what actually shakes out. Meanwhile, any news about the plight of other EU members and the EU itself would also affect everyone's view.

Of course, if the leaving process were completed, there would be reactions to how the various deals actually unfold and whether they would be extended or renegotiated. But that position would be the 'new normal', so not really Brexit related at all.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Britain's Emigrants Queue For Ex-EU Handouts

As the final echo of the Vote Leave battle bus dies away amongst the villages and byways of England's south west, a strange chant rises in its place. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Conservative Party spokesperson for South West England, pauses in his piece-to-camera for a German film crew investigating Roman tin mines, listens, then shakes his head. "Never mind," he says to the director. But as the crew ready themselves for a re-take, a battered green Land Rover draws up and a familiar local official emerges. 

"Not now, Arnold."

But the man steps forward, flat cap held nervously in front. A faint breeze brings with it the hum of "We want our grants!" and catches the man's exposed comb-over so that it stands up like a horse-hair plume on a Roman soldier's helmet.

"Beggin' your pardon, sir."

The Germans begin filming.

"Not now, I say."

"It's about the three fifty million, sir."

"Yes, yes," Rees-Mogg snaps, trying to focus on the camera. "Boris has it in hand."

"That's what we're worried about, sir."

Rees-Mogg waves him away. "It's a figure of speech, man. Can't you see I'm working?"

"Not all of us are lucky enough to have jobs, sir."

"Look, we have years to worry about that, but a week to complete this film about the region's economic heyday before the funding from Brussels runs out. We can discuss it later." 

"That's not what the gentleman from the Commission used to say - "

"Go away! Please!"

"- he were very responsive."

Rees-Mogg heaves a sigh and says to the German. "Sorry, we can edit all this out."

"The Cornish are restless, sir," Arnold persists. 

Rees-Mogg sighs again, "It was ever thus," he says, partly for the German director's benefit. "Look," he says, turning to Arnold, "Explain to them that it was written in letters three feet high and thirty feet long that all the money would be spent on the National Health Service. So if they want their share, they should jolly well get sick."

"I could tell 'em that, sir. But I don't think they'll be very pleased."

"Well, then they can call Boris."

"Yes, sir."

"Now go away."

"Yes, sir."


Friday, 24 June 2016

Little Britain Votes To Leave

In the worst act of vandalism since the Visigoths sacked Rome in 410, the UK has been ripped out of the European Union by regional voters, led by a trio of politicians that caricaturists could only dream of who perpetrated a campaign that "descended into dishonesty on an industrial scale". 

Yet the Brexit map of the UK shows that those who voted for Britain to leave the EU are not only among those who were the net beneficiaries of EU funding, but are also utterly dependent on the areas that voted to remain to negotiate the terms of Brexit and to plug the regional funding gap that the EU money filled: the 'Leave' campaign demanded that Britain's contribution to the EU be diverted into the black hole that is the NHS budget and that is exactly where it will disappear.

All the facts and projections labelled as 'doom and gloom' now loom as reality. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Forking The DAO - Robin Hood Update

No, this is not science fiction: the Ethereum world really has been rocked by financial scandal, and has less than a month to resolve it.

It's very hard to explain this situation simply to fans of financial scandals who may be less familiar with cryptotechnology.

In essence a bunch of people ('curators') got together and created - or curated - a new type of open association, which they christened a Decentralized Autonomous Organization, and this first example “The DAO"

The DAO is built on a new type of cryptographic software platform called a 'distributed ledger' or 'blockchain', in this case known as Ethereum. Such ledgers typically have their own virtual currency, in this case called 'ether'. 

The DAO's rules are in written in software code, so it is in fact a computer programme (or application or 'app'). The DAO is designed to be controlled by investors who use their 'ether' to buy DAO 'tokens' that entitle them to vote on the The DAO's affairs - the main issue being how the DAO should invest the 'ether' it raises through selling 'tokens' to investors, who can also start mini-DAO or 'child DAOs' to focus the investments. By last week the The DAO had raised $60m worth of ether at the going exhange rate.

You can maybe see what's coming...

A savvy participant noticed that The DAO would allow any participant to start a 'child DAO' under their own control and drain 'ether' from The DAO into the child DAO without bothering any of the other participants. 

So they did. 

Cue outrage!

The other participants and 'curators' now say this move was an "attack" that exploited a 'vulnerability' arising from a 'mistake' in The DAO's code. As a result, a 'soft fork' has been imposed by the DAO's 'curator' for 28 days, effectively freezing the child DAO and the ether within it. Many of The DAO's participants want to see the soft fork become permanent - or a 'hard fork' (this saga is providing endless scope for unfortunate puns). Yet The DAO web site's makes it very clear that the code is the sole contract governing The DAO (though what contractual significance The DAO's web site has is therefore questionable).  At any rate, The DAO clearly allowed what in fact happened.

It's ironic that the self-styled "attacker" has resorted to lawyers and is threatening court action to protect his/her/their financial gains. But it would be a fascinating case to run, and a real-world judgment on the issues (applicable law, jurisdiction, whether there was a mistake for which relief could be given etc.) could actually be very helpful to the development of distributed ledgers and the applications that run on them.

23 June:

Meanwhile, the parties are battling it out in a cryptographic re-enactment of Robin Hood (or Barbarians at the Gate?). So-called 'white hat' hackers (claiming to be 'good actors') attempted to secure the remaining ether in The DAO in other child DAOs but the 'attacker' joined them as well.

But is either set of participants 'right' or 'wrong', 'good' or 'bad'? Are they not simply competing in any fashion that The DAO allows?

Would you do business with The DAO or its 'children'?

Would you be happy for The DAO or any child DAO to be an investor in your business? 

Watch this (cyber)space!

Further reading:
Frances Coppola has written a great piece for Forbes.
Introduction to the DAO.
Open letter from "The Attacker".
DAO Wars: Hacker Counter-Attacks and Infiltrates the Robin Hood DAOs

Friday, 13 May 2016

European Privacy Regulators Now Not Happy With US #PrivacyShield

It all seemed to be going so smoothly for US policy-makers when the gathering of the EU's privacy regulators (the Article 29 Working Party) issued a draft review of the US Privacy Shield in February. But the final report means the champagne will remain in the bottle for sometime yet.

Basically, the regulators found the Privacy Sword Shield is hard to read, unclear, inconsistently worded, inconsistent with the new General Data Protection Regulation, does not provide equivalent protection, makes it too hard for foreigners to get redress, the proposed Ombudsman will be neither independent nor adequately resourced; and does "not exclude massive and indiscriminate collection of personal data originating from the EU"!

Meanwhile, data transfers from the EU to the US are still okay to take place under the existing data transfer mechanisms ('standard model clauses' and 'Binding Corporate Rules').

Pity Mr Schrems who managed to overturn the 'Safe Harbor' but leave us even less protected than before!

Friday, 15 April 2016

There's No Single Market For Consumer Finance: What Next?

Perhaps it's not what the European Commission intended, but its green paper on retail financial services is a great explanation of why there is so little cross-border activity in consumer finance: 3% for payment cards, current accounts and mortgages; 5% for loans (less than 1% between Eurozone countries!) and only 3% of gross insurance premiums. For a very long list of reasons, it's just not practicable for most retail financial services providers to operate across EU borders, as the EC has known since at least 2007. Could it be time, therefore, to scale back EU requirements for firms that only focus on their national market, so consumers have a clear choice between national and genuinely cross-border suppliers and products?

The Commission concedes that its vast, confetti-like attempt to harmonise EU financial regulation  has proved futile in catalysing a single retail finance market, yet it continues to ask what more can be done.

One issue in particular that the Commission is huffing and puffing about is 'geo-blocking', the use of technology to identify and block or re-direct consumers based in certain countries.

But the Commission's own findings are that few players have the resources to focus on cross-border markets. Suppliers who do target multiple countries typically use separate local operating entities to deal with all the problems listed in the green paper, so they don't even properly qualify as 'cross'-border. At any rate, how can you force a Spanish motor insurer to sell policies to Germans if it simply can't afford to administer claims in Germany? How would that be in the policyholders' interests? Even assuming the focus solely on Spanish customers is the supplier's own choice, rather than due to some legal restriction, wouldn't requiring the firm to deal with Germans or Swedish consumers put it at risk of going bust, leaving the whole market to a few big players who can afford to serve customers everywhere?

In its response to the green paper, the UK's Financial Conduct Authority quite rightly urges caution on the economic impact of more (futile) regulation, as well as careful analysis of consumer needs and behaviour before churning it out. The FCA points out that existing regulation must be allowed to 'bed-in' before assessing its real impact; and the Commission needs to consider that EU consumers are not some amorphous clump of flesh waiting eagerly for Greek insurance policies homogeneous, but diverse in their needs and behaviours - so a 'one-size-fits-all' approach won't be universally acceptable and risks crushing local financial services that are working well.

The FCA hints at the idea of a range of EU-approved products that might be provided by any EEA firm to any EEA consumer in a standard way, though this still begs the question whether the providers are able to manage this operationally. 

I guess it's possible that those able to target cross-border markets would benefit from some kind of voluntary EU-cross-border safe harbour scheme that enables them to adopt the same approach to marketing, contracts, customer service, complaints handling and enforcement and so on throughout their target market(s). It could even be very a attractive product in some national markets that are currently under-served or where consumers are being fleeced.

But that's more or less what the current regime allows, yet few firms are bothering to do it: the whole point is that we know it is futile to impose a cross-border scheme on firms and consumers who just want to focus on their own national, regional or local market.

Which begs the question: rather than add more regulation, why not allow member states to scale back EU requirements for firms that wish to remain nationally focused? This would allow further differentiation between national and cross-border suppliers and products, presenting consumers with a clearer choice to make.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Of Brexit, Red Tape and Light At The End Of The Eurotunnel

A pragmatic approach to the Brexit debate is to ask whether withdrawal from the European Union would solve enough root causes of Britain's problems to make up for the inevitable disruption.

But we are yet to see that level of analysis, and I doubt we ever will.  

That, and the fact that opportunists like Boris Johnson are able to swing their booms from one side of the debate to the other in the hope of catching any old puff of political wind, tells me the UK's membership of the EU is just a political issue, unconnected to anything 'real'.

One thing that is clear, however, is that cutting the ties with Brussels will not automatically cut the UK's source of red tape: Britain is expert at producing its own. You only need to look at the NHS, the social welfare 'system', the Home Office or education to see how much of a mess the UK is capable of making on its own turf; and its approach to implementing EU law is similarly self-defeating...

Generally speaking, you might say that 'an Englishman's red tape is a Frenchman's business plan'. The English common law principle is that 'the law follows commerce' and we should be able to get on with something until the law forbids or restricts it; while civil law dictates that an activity is not lawful until the state says so. Another difference, somewhat surprising in light of the first, is that the common law system is based on literal interpretation; while civil law is interpreted on the basis of its purpose - the spirit rather than just the letter - and this is how EU law is interpreted by the European Court of Justice.

While the EU's civil law countries rely on EU regulation to tell them more or less how to act, the UK has not coped with this distinction very well. Firstly, the UK's attitude to EU membership means that it misses opportunities to influence the favourable development of EU law in the first place - the UK always seems to be on the back foot. Then, once EU laws are passed, the UK suffers from a policy of 'gold-plating' directives by simply copying them word-for-word into its own national laws which are interpreted literally under common law principles rather than reflecting the purposive interpretation that civil law member states adopt. So the UK creates several rods for its own back.

While it is said that the English courts do (or should) adopt a purposive approach when interpreting national legislation in areas covered by EU law, in practice this opportunity is not widely embraced either by officials or the legal and regulatory community. Once any awkward or confusing EU requirements are transposed into national law, everyone in the UK seems doomed to take them literally.

The result is a system that pushes the burden of resolving any EU regulatory awkwardness or confusion off the public sector's plate and onto the private sector (and, ultimately, the consumer or citizen). A recent case in point include the UK's approach to implementing the Payment Accounts Directive. There are others too numerous to mention.

I do have a little sympathy with the UK's approach to the EU legislative process. It is outnumbered by civil law countries who may not appreciate or respect the more reactive common law approach.  It is also tempting to avoid the expense in time and resources required to continually debate with EC officials whether UK regulation reflects the purpose of EU directives, rather than the letter. But this doesn't bother Italy, Germany, France or the other countries higher on the league table of those failing to implement European laws.

Maybe you could say this failure to navigate the EU legislative process is a reason to leave the EU, but it seems pretty feeble for the UK to lose the benefits of membership due to a political problem of its own making. At any rate, if UK ministers and officials would only take full advantage of the opportunity to resolve any problems in the formation of EU laws in Brussels and take a purposive approach to enacting them nationally, they would surely reduce any adverse impact on the wider UK community from laws that might be unduly restrictive.

Meanwhile, ironically, the EU authorities are beginning to take a more common law wait-and-see approach to regulation, having realised that regulation won't catalyse cross-border markets that don't already exist. Contrast the futile approach to consumer credit with the more cautious approach to regulating crowdfunding and virtual currencies/distributed ledger technology.  

In other words, the UK seems keen to leave when there may be light at the end of the Eurotunnel.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Distributed Ledger Technology: Cutting Through The Hype

A busy start to 2016 has meant the blogging has suffered, but I have at least co-written an article with Susan McLean of Morrison & Foerster that cuts through the hype around blockchain and other distributed ledger technology (DLT). 

The article includes updates on a range of DLT initiatives across numerous business sectors; various policy and regulatory responses; as well as some thoughts on the challenges involved in implementing DLTs.

You won't be able to put it down! ;-)

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Of Royalty Problems and Distributed Ledgers

January has been a whirlwind of meetings and discussion around the idea of using 'blockchains' and other distributed ledger technology to help track and collect royalties on creative works, starting with music and the Digital DNA Genome Project. The potential is certainly there for a new ledger-based environment for creative works. But whether distributed ledger technology will address the root causes lurking beneath the biggest problems that the creative industry faces is another question. Here are some observations relating to problems in the music sector, which I know from other conversations and reports resonate in other creative industry sectors...

The current processes for producing and distributing music are clearly broken.  A trawl through the comments below this 'story' on how much YouTube pays in royalties to artists gives you some insight into the problems faced even by those who work really hard at tracking and claiming what they are owed. Responding to a Wall Street Journal report on claims that Spotify fails to properly account for royalties, musician and critic David Lowery wrote to the Attorney General of New York State demanding action. Civil litigation has followed, seeking $150m in unpaid royalties. 

But the more you dig into the royalty problems, the more you realise they are just a symptom, not the cause, of the music sector's woes. One has to be careful about apportioning blame among the multitude of different types of participant involved in the overall process for creating, distributing and performing musical works. What some see as misconduct can easily be attributed to poor systems and record-keeping and a failure to address the root causes of those failures. But, again, go easy on the blame: it's a huge and daunting task to figure out all the processes involved in such a diffuse sector and then how to improve and control each of them so you know when things are going awry and how to respond.

Ultimately, however, one can't help feeling that listeners are not getting access to the sort of range and quality of music that a more efficient sector could deliver.

So, where to start?

The high level problem statement is that the ability to efficiently monetise music has simply not kept pace with the ability to generate and consume it. Why? Well, let's say that the back-office processes have not kept up with the front of house processes. How so? Back office staff at record labels and collection agencies, artist's agents - and even the artists themselves - manually reconcile paper contracts and bank statements to figure out who is owed what; and royalties are often still paid by cheques, even for tiny amounts. At the other end of the process, consumers can stream music and watch video clips on their smartphones. The distribution processes in the middle are also far from operationally efficient. They don't properly track and account for what is made available to consumers at the front end, and don't interface efficiently with the back office.


Well, this is where the sector seems to have stopped analysing the situation, which is what we humans tend to do in such situations. We leap to conclusions and solutions. "It's in the interest of the big labels to do nothing about it," has been the most popular refrain, although "Google and Spotify don't care" seems to the latest chart-topper. Current 'solutions' range from sending in the auditors, to filing law suits, to preferring to stage live gigs and concerts as the way to make money. From a technology standpoint, we have the Codec idea from Benji Rogers - not to mention the distributed ledger initiatives that we'll come to.

But these are really just solutions in search of the root cause to the sector's actual problems, spawned more by a sense of helplessness and frustration than any pure insight.

To identify the solutions that will give the most bang for the buck there is a lot more work to be done in understanding all the processes; defining the key problems more precisely, measuring which cause the most pain, then analysing the range of root causes of those problems; before then figuring out which improvements are worthwhile implementing. Finally, all that work will be lost unless there are controls in place to know when the processes are starting to fail again.

Any new system for monetising music efficiently must be “customer-centric” and not merely ‘consumer-centric’ or ‘artist-centric’. It has to cater for the entire set of end-to-end business processes and treat all industry participants fairly. We have to recognise that each participant may be a supplier in one step of the overall process, yet the customer of another step; and which hat they are wearing when they complain. One could argue, for example, that artists are perhaps most upset not in their role as suppliers of music, but in their role as customers in process steps related to distribution, consumption and payment.

To become sustainable, 'the system' must evolve in a customer-centric fashion at each step, otherwise the participant in the role of the ‘customer’ will not buy in to the solution for that step. Equally, however, no one can afford to get caught up in anger and blame. The whole sector needs to move along the change curve to accepting that the system is broken and participate positively in the work required to fix it.

So it's simply too early to say what role, if any, distributed ledgers have to play in solving the creative industry's problems. It's not about imposing a solution, but rather fostering agreement on root causes of the problems and the necessary improvements and controls to be implemented.

That's not to say work should not continue on the use of ledgers in relation to music and other works. It is exciting to see the work on releasing music into ledgers by Ujo Music and MyCelia; Audiocoin; Aurovine; Revelator; Colu; and OCL (One Click Licence); as well as the work of the Kendra Initiative on the wider development of a distributed marketplace; and collaborative forums like the Digital DNA Genome Project mentioned earlier. I just don't think we should saddle these initiatives with the responsibility for solving the current woes of the creative industry - the two can co-exist quite peacefully.

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