There’s an interesting article titled Whatever Will Be Will Be Free on the Internet over at the New York Times (free registration required) that talks about what the future may hold for intellectual property rights and music as the battle between file swappers and the RIAA continues to rage. One proposal for dealing with music swapping on the net draws upon lessons learned from the rise in popularity of Radio:
William Fisher, a Harvard law professor, offers a solution for the recording industry’s Internet challenge, and one that borrows from the past. When radio became popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s and began broadcasting copyrighted songs, the record companies, singers and bands protested. The answer was to have the radio stations pay the copyright holders and set up a measuring system so the largest payments went for the most popular songs.
In a book to be published next year, Mr. Fisher recommends placing a 15 percent tax on Internet access and a 15 percent tax on devices used for storing and copying music and movies like CD-burners, MP3 players and blank CDs.
The funds raised, he estimates, would be about $2.5 billion in 2004, roughly the projected amount the recording industry and Hollywood would lose to online piracy. The music business and Hollywood would get refunds based on what works were the most popular downloads.
Personally, this doesn’t seem like a wholly bad idea in my mind. I don’t know if a 15% tax is really the right number, but I’d certainly be willing to have a minor tax added to my broadband service and to the purchases of CDRs (which are cheap as hell as it is) and MP3 devices if it would mean I had the right to download whatever the hell I wanted in the way of music from off the Net. What do you guys think?