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
    Rick Sarvas, 14 Mar 2008 @ 9:17am

    So, where would you get the music from?

    My question for this is: download from who? I don't recall seeing that this would allow you to share music, just download it, so where would you get it from? Would the record companies give up and allow people to download whatever content they want for any source, like P2P? I think not. That would be giving up way too much control. Besides, how could you tell what P2P user paid the tax and who did not? How do you think the music distributors and retailers would react to this?

    What I think would happen if this were made a requirement is that the "tax" would allow you to use some poorly designed service offering a limited selection of DRMed music - much like the music service forced on some universities today. In this way if you stop paying the tax, you will be given the option of either "buying" the music you downloaded (rented) or having your music collection stop working. Some deal that is. Besides, even if you were allowed to do an "unlimited" amount of music downloads and they never did expire, I'm sure there would be some sort small print in the service TOS as to just how limited "unlimited" really is.

    Sorry, but I just don't see this ever working in a way that wouldn't end up screwing the consumer.

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