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U2's turn for Internet thrashing

One of the world's most popular bands comes under fire from bloggers angered by antipiracy comments made by group's manager.

U2 U2.com

Looks like it's U2's turn to take a pounding from the bloggerati.

A speech on Monday by Paul McGuinness, manager of the band U2, was a call to arms against piracy. He wants to fight file sharing by forcing Internet service providers to ban people who pirate music. He suggested that Apple and other makers of digital music players were wrongly profiting from their "burglary kits."

McGuinness told a gathering of music insiders at the Midem music conference in Cannes, France, that music is making lots of people lots of money. Unfortunately, that money isn't finding its way to artists. He placed much of the blame on tech companies, but also pointed a finger at record labels that "through lack of foresight and planning allowed a range of industries to arise that let people steal music."

Not surprisingly, U2, one of the world's most beloved bands for more than two decades, is under attack in the blogosphere.

"U2's manager tells us why we are bad," "U2's crazy manager wants to go after tech firms," and "U2 McGu's ISP rant" are just a few of the headlines coming from outraged bloggers.

The band has not commented one way or the other on McGuinness' speech, but one would have to think they were apprised before he said it. A copy of the speech is posted on U2's Web site. Either way, like Prince, Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor and (the granddaddy of all musicians who spoke out against file sharing) Metallica's Lars Ulrich before them, Bono & Co. are getting worked over.

Here's some of the wittier and more brutal comments...

"McGuiness is whining about this at the same time that U2 is pulling in incredible profits, making $355 million on its last tour," wrote Mike Masnick at the blog Techdirt.

Wired.com's Ryan Singel offered this: "Threat Level agrees that ISPs shouldn't get away consequence-free for transporting evil bits. But we counter-propose that ISPs use any nascent filtering technology they have developed to blackhole U2 and its frontman who goes by the ludicrous moniker Bono."

Privacy advocate Lauren Weinstein takes the manager to task for his comment about the tech sector's "hippy values."

"Paul has homed in on well-known hippie freaks like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates," Weinstein quipped. "You do remember when Steve and Bill used to hang out with Timothy Leary, right? No? You don't recall Switch On, Log In, and Buzz?"

The struggle for economic control of music is looking more and more like war between corporations and consumers. On one side, the record industry has an army of lawyers ready to sue. On the other, consumers have an army of bloggers ready to ridicule.

Choose the wrong side, and prepare to take a public whipping. At this point, no musician who takes up the pro-copyright banner should be shocked when he or she is branded a traitor and longtime fans swear they'll never buy their music again.

But if file-sharing really is hitting these musicians in their wallets, maybe they don't care.