You may or may not have heard rumblings about a possible
tax levy "music access charge," which would effectively decriminalize the act of sharing copyrighted material on peer-to-peer networks. Not too long ago, the idea of adding a line-item surcharge to your monthly internet bill to allow P2P was laughed it off as absurd and anti-copyright. But the concept slowly gained traction as content holders came to realize that "locks" and other restrictions of digital music files is not a market-supported solution. Now, Great Britain is apparently moving ahead with legalized P2P, which they hope to have in place "by next year." Other EU nations will surely follow.
Of course, the devil is in the details — particularly if the idea is brought to the States.
Questions of accounting transparency would arise, especially considering that major labels have a history of withholding money from artists. Would a third party be responsible for tracking payouts? Who would be the collecting agent? What music would be licensed — major, indie, all? Would the compositions (and publishers) be included in the license? How would the licenses work internationally?
Would the levy be mandatory for consumers? It’s easy to imagine someone’s grandma, who only uses her broadband connection to e-mail pictures, being annoyed that she had to pay for other people’s music downloads.
On the other hand, the idea has a lot more appeal than the punitive approach to P2P. In recent years, the major labels were likely to sue the aforementioned grandma for hundreds of thousands of dollars just because her grandson was hoarding stolen T-Pain MP3s on her Dell.
American industry is downright allergic to legislation, so the only way the music access charge will ever happen here is through private licensing agreements between the ISPs and content holders. So it’s on it’s way, right?
I personally have no idea. But I’m guessing somebody does. . .