Friday, February 27, 2004

More Music

I've talked here before about how I think new technologies like peer-to-peer networks could be a huge boon for independent musicians. The problem, of course, is how do those musicians get paid. The RIAA wants to drive people to proprietary, pay-as-you-go systems. I think that is just a way for them to drive up the amount of money they're collecting on behalf of big, corporate labels. In my view, there's got to be something better.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has proposed a system that I think is better. Essentially, they're suggesting extending the ASCAP/BMI system to the P2P world. For those of you who don't know, ASCAP and BMI have been in the business of collecting money for musical artists. Radio stations, television stations, bars and restaurants -- all of them pay a regular "lump sum" payment to these agencies. In turn, the payers get the right to play as much copyrighted material as they want. Of course, there are various forumulae to determine how much gets paid. But the point is, they're not paying for each song individually.

The RIAA apparently doesn't like this suggestion. They'd rather have consumers pay for each individual download. The argument put forth by the RIAA's David Sutphen that the EFF's scheme would mean that all music is valued equally is disingenous, because that's the way it already works. And if I'm not mistaken, the pay-per-song approach would be no different. If the value of each song is set at 99 cents, then you're still putting an equal value on Vanilla Ice and the Beatles.

As far as the voluntary system still allowing "free downloading" -- I'm certain that the technology could be tweaked to take into account whether or not the end user has paid a licensing fee.

Here's to hoping that the RIAA will be a bit more open minded and give more thoughtful consideration to the EFF's proposal.

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