April 25, 2008

Slate’s Reihan Salam On Terry Fisher’s Plan [1:33 pm]

The music industry’s extortion scheme (see earlier post)

That’s why piracy can’t be stopped. Meanwhile, artists aren’t being compensated in a sensible way. Sure, some musicians will make a living by playing live shows and selling T-shirts. A massively popular band like Radiohead can give away its music and still make millions. But plenty of other artists will no longer be able to make a living in the music business as royalties dry up, which will leave our culture a little less vital and a little less fun. What we need is a reward system, one that could eliminate middlemen and encourage a massive upsurge in creativity.

[...] All-you-can-eat iTunes works for Apple. Voluntary blanket licensing works for Big Music. The problem is that both of these grand plans cut out the little guy. Apple wants to ensure that the iPod will crush all other music-playing devices for 1,000 years by building an overwhelmingly dominant music retail platform. Big Music sells 90 percent of records; if they manage to squeeze money out of the ISPs, one suspects they’d be more than happy to screw the independent labels that make up the other 10 percent.

What plan will work best for music lovers and artists? Instead of a fake music tax, the best solution might be—sorry, libertarians—for the government to step in with a real music tax. In the book Promises To Keep: Technology, Law, and the Future of Entertainment, Harvard Law School professor William Fisher devised an ingenious reward system that levels the playing field for artists. [...]

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