Saturday, March 17, 2007

Light Bulb

It's Saturday night, I know. But I'm working on the 25-page paper on Grokster (gotta present on it on Tuesday). Luckily I checked EFF's site (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and felt relief that someone has completely solved the P2P file-sharing problem. Eventually I will recover from the marvelousness of it and try to pick out some flaws, but for now I'm blinded by the light:

Charge people $5 a month to download as much DRM-free music as they want, using any P2P apps or websites they want. EFF suggests that broadband providers could tack the $5 onto monthly payments. As long as the price is low, people will pay for the peace of mind and convenience. They note that the film industry first sold VHS movies for $90 until learning that a lower price cuts down on piracy. The juicy details: Voluntary Collective Licensing.

Five dollars looks right too, considering that Peter Jenner said $50 per year is "how much each music fan who buys music would have to pay in order for access to every song ever recorded while maintaining or increasing music sales." Full entry from Wired. I wonder how much I spend on iTunes a month...

Couldn't the film industry do the same thing? $10 a month... Software? $15 a month... Full text books online? $20 a month... A class-based online world, where only the wealthy can afford total information access? As long as you can pick-n-choose your services, or choose to pay for a single product, the price would remain reasonable. People could still burn CDs, but I think the convenience might outweigh it. Anything's better than what copyright holders are getting now, right?

Thoughts on this? What would the collective licensing future look like?


Lawyerlike said...

Almost all of the experts and industry execs we had visit in our Entertainment Law class agreed that this was the best method to secure monetization of music over the internet.

The problem, however, is that ISPs would be the ones best suited to collect this fee - which would be distributed to artists based on their downloads share - except that ISPs generally like to distance themselves from what goes on over their lines. They prefer to simply remain common carriers. Anything more might entail nasty legal issues for them.

But it makes most sense and is likely the least painful methods for consumers - just stick the small fee on their bill and no one is likely to raise a ruckus.

Bzzzz said...

I think another issue may be that eventually you are going to want to migrate your music or change services during your lifetime. Depending on how the content is tagged - and who collects the fee - you could stand to lose the music you are effectively renting when you change services, get married, etc. If you get to "keep" all your music what is to stop you from signing up for the service for a few months, downloading the hell out of the service, offloading the content to a portable hard drive and keeping it disconnected from the internet. So long as there isn't DRM attached the music is now yours.

Another issue - what happens if you have communal access to the internet? You'd need MAC address level tracking of downloads otherwise you just get one static IP address and your own DHCP server behind it and share the cost to the limit of the subnet your mask allows. On the flipside - are you going to charge on a per person basis? $5 on a $50 internet bill isn't bad - if you have a family of five? I don't know about paying $75 for the internet.

It seems like it could be a decent idea, it just needs to be fleshed out more.

Bzzzz said...

funny that in a way we are writing the same paper, just that mine is more focused on international copyright law/WIPO and antitrust.

forgot to mention before that Microsoft (and others writing about MSFT) has spilled a lot of ink and spent a lot of money on researching the subscription model for software over the years. Might be worth taking a gander at. According to a recent interview with Gates, Vista will be the last OS you can buy outright from MSFT.