From Wired News: The Answer to Piracy: Five Bucks?.
EFF attorney Fred von Lohmann, speaking as part of a panel on peer-to-peer music sharing, proposed that music fans pay a small monthly fee — perhaps $5 — to share files with impunity, using whatever software they like. The money could be collected by a central organization and then distributed among those who own the rights to the songs, based on popularity.
The idea has worked before. Broadcast radio stations paid a similar flat fee to ASCAP and BMI — organizations representing songwriters, composers and music publishers — to play their music as much as they wanted, he said.
David Sutphen, vice president of government relations for the RIAA, immediately pooh-poohed the idea. File sharers still would search out a way to download music for free, he said, and under the proposed system, all music would have the same value, which doesn’t make sense. One-hit wonder Vanilla’s Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby,” for example, would have the same value as The Beatles catalog.
He said these types of compulsory licenses are “not a wise or logical thing to do.”
It would be interested to ask Fred and the EFF what they actually have in mind here. The music industry has already been very clear that they see compulsory licensing in analog radio as having been one of their greatest setbacks/failures — and they made sure the DMCA took back as much as possible.
Was this a real proposal, or a way to try to play politics with the RIAA, trying to make them look foolish?
Update: I see that Donna’s got links, most notably to the EFF position page.
I think I still stick with my earlier comment — the record companies have seen the compulsory license in radio as a huge giveaway on their part, and the digital performance rights provisions in the DMCA are a specific effort to redress that "wrong." They’re not about to accept this, and they have aggressively tried to reframe the discussion around the idea that compulsory licensing is about putting a government agency in charge of something that should be the market’s business — an argument that failed when the 1976 copyright act bill was up for discussion, but has far more power in today’s political climate.
In other words, it might make sense, but it ain’t gonna happen — the record companies are going to have to see continued declines in sales and continued increases in sharing. Right now, they’re telling themselves that their strategies are working. Until the walls start crashing in on them, they aren’t going to go for this.