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. identicon
    Careysub, 14 Mar 2008 @ 8:49am

    Business as Usual: RIAA Is Accustomed to Special T

    This proposal should be no surprise to anyone. The recording industry has become accustomed to having the government impose special taxes to provide it with revenue under the theory that these taxes compensate it for lost sales through piracy.

    See: USC Title 17, 1008 "Royalty Payments". This is a tax imposed on music CD-Rs, digital audio tapes, stand-alone CD recorders, and digital audio recorders. In 1998 the RIAA tried, but failed, to get special taxes imposed on MP3 players.

    Notice that these are taxes on *digital* devices. Analog technology (blank vinyl disks and vinyl recording devices, analog tape and recorders) never had these levies, and yet the industry survived.

    At the same time the industry has been obtaining access to tax revenues (originally under the theory that this was a trade-off for more liberal copyright restrictions) it has also been seeking, and getting, increasingly draconian revisions of copyright law.

    In all, the recording industry has had some success in using computer technology as a scare tactic to stampede congress into granting it immense new assets at the public's expense. Despite its great success in this copyright land rush, it is still crying proverty, hoping for even greater gains. Its lots easier than running a successful, adaptable business. The MP3 episode shows though, that these attempts can be resisted.

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