June 25, 2004

NYTimes Op-Ed on Music Biz & Compulsory Licensing [9:08 am]

Two op-ed pieces in the NYTimes today on the music business and the push for compulsory licensing (Terry’s book must be coming out soon!):

  • Harvard Law School’s Terry Fisher: Don’t Beat Them, Join Them

    History may give us some guidance. After all, file sharing isn’t the first new technology to have destabilized the entertainment industry. The way in which the industry responded to the introduction of three earlier inventions — radio, the VCR and Webcasting — offers important clues for music executives today.

    [...] If the pattern holds, then the record industry’s response to file sharing — trying to block the technology altogether — would generate the worst of all possible results. To its credit, the industry has started to participate in paid music download services like iTunes, but a better solution would be to institute a monthly licensing fee paid by Internet users. History suggests that the record industry, and society at large, would be better off in the long run if it approached this new challenge with more open minds.

  • University of Iowa’s Kimbrew McLeod: Share the Music

    With its new round of lawsuits, the recording industry association is once again demonstrating its failure to recognize the obvious: file sharing isn’t going away. Consumers have grown attached to it, and more and more musicians believe file sharing can help promote their music in an age of limited play lists at radio stations. Given its hold in our culture, downloading, in some form, must be part of any solution to this impasse.

    A blanket license model, like that legalizing the use of copyrighted material by cable television and radio, can point us to a future system that might work for file sharing. There would be differences, of course, but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Various lawyers, professors and organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting individual freedoms in the digital age, have offered workable solutions.

    [...] Some critics call these plans unrealistic, but a legally sanctioned cable television system also seemed like a pipe dream in the 1960’s because of the television industry’s resistance.

    It would be dishonest, and foolish, to suggest that hammering out a compromise palatable to all sides is going to be easy. But the alternative — to do nothing, or to pass new industry-backed legislation — would continue to criminalize the everyday behavior of millions. And it would continue to stifle an innovative way to distribute artistic works.

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