RIAA Now Open To 'You Must Be A Criminal' Tax On ISP Fees

from the not-the-answer dept

This certainly isn't the first time it's been proposed, but it appears that the RIAA is potentially warming up to the idea of a "music surcharge" that would have ISPs pay $5/month in order to allow anyone to share music online. Just a month ago, we were discussing why this is a bad idea. First, it's effectively treating everyone as a criminal, and forcing those who don't download or share music to subsidize everyone who does. Second, and much more importantly, it's not necessary. If there's anything that the past five years (and the past year especially) has taught us, it's that there are many different ways for musicians to make money without requiring the government to step in and set up a business model for them. In other words, there's no compelling need for such a mandated system. Third, once you do this, it opens up additional questions from other industries. Will the government need to set up laws that prop up their business models as well?

Some people are comparing this new RIAA proposal to the one that the EFF proposed four years ago. However, that one was quite different, in that it was a voluntary licensing system, rather than a mandatory one. In that system, anyone who wanted to could voluntarily pay $5/month to have free reign to share and download music. This new proposal would mandate that ISPs pay the fee (meaning that ISPs would quickly pass the costs on to everyone). That's quite different. It also might be a different story if ISPs voluntarily offered this as a feature for customers -- where they would license the music so anyone could freely share it. That's a case where the ISP would effectively be paying for the creation of music and using its free nature as a promotional good for its service. However, that rationale goes away if it's mandatory. So, while it's nice that the RIAA has woken up (about a decade too late) to the idea that new business models are needed, this proposal isn't a very good idea.

Filed Under: copyright, isps, levy, mandatory, music, riaa
Companies: riaa


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  1. icon
    Crosbie Fitch (profile), 14 Mar 2008 @ 5:50am

    Beware 'voluntary'

    Mike, I'd look closely wherever you've seen the term 'voluntary' used. This usually means that musicians aren't forced to have their music licenced this way. It doens't mean that the poor ISP using punter isn't forced to cough up the levy/license fee, i.e. in such schemes it's usually compulsory for all ISPs to apply this levy (otherwise the system ain't going to fly).

    I suggest people pick wisely from the following ways artists can be compensated:
    1) Suspension of liberty and natural IP rights to privilege publishers.
    2) Taxation or compulsory levy to compensate publishers for free public use.
    3) Exchange of art for money from the artist's audience in a free and fair market (without compulsion or monopolies such as copyright).

    The people who really know how to exchange digital works in a free market (software engineers) are way ahead of everyone else. Free as in speech, not as in beer. You want more and better GPL software? Pay for it. Feel free to sell your own improvements. No-one has a monopoly on GPL software.

    The idea that suspending the public's liberty to free cultural exchange was a great way to promote culture is just the sort of unenlightened claptrap people would be persuaded to tolerate 300 years ago when slavery was fashionable.

    The alternative of taxing the people for the benefit of poor publishers who've realised their monopolies are dissolving before their eyes, is similarly unenlightened and grievously corrupt.

    Follow the money. In whose houses do marble floors get laid?

    Let audience and artist deal direct, just as in any other equitable trading relationship since time immemorial.

    Art for money, money for art.

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