A few clarifications are needed! (Some of you think this was well thought out, but I swear I wrote it in 10 minutes after a few drinks without going too deep!):
- When I say tax I don't mean governmental tax, I mean a new law where ISPs have to pay copyright owners a share of the revenue that is generated from broadband subscriptions in acknowledgement of the value that the sharing of copyrighted content online has to those subscriptions and the profitability of the ISPs.
- When I say 'creative industries' I also meant to include all original content creators, including content by people who have no record label or representation of any kind. E.g. If someone decides to make a DIY film or song with no budget which then goes viral to 20m people, there should be some universal method in place (like a bar code) where that person can trace how their film/song etc has been used and potentially claim some money back from the ISPs who will be gaining from such activity. If revenue could be generated (however small) for all content creators, it would be extremely liberating as many people would find not only mass recognition, but also a potential income without needing to sign their rights away to record companies, publishers and Hollywood production companies first. This could also reduce the 'creative bottle neck' that some writers and artists have to go through to impress the boards of directors of corporate companies and encourage a wider range of content and views to be expressed with independent budgets generated (increasing quality) due to the fact that most big investors in creative content (both music and film) tend to avoid anything politically controversial.
- Regarding usage, obviously I didn't factor in that people exchange enormous amounts of legal data through FTPs etc. for work purposes. What I meant to say was that it may be worth devising a method to create a charge for ISPs based on the downloading of digitally labelled data only. Everybody is familiar with paying more or less for things like electricity, heating and telephone based on usage and these are also services associated with modern basic human rights. It cannot be ignored that billions of gigs of copyright owned (and independently created) data are being exchanged, bringing in large gains for ISPs which for some reason the ISPs do not have to pay for. All emails, browsing websites, work etc of course should always be included in a LOWER overall monthly subscription charge. Of course, if ISPs were forced to pay independent collection agencies like PRS (who would trace ONLY labelled or coded files) the result would almost certainly be this cost being passed on to the consumer, but personally, if we were talking pennies per MB usage for music added on to an already lowered ISP subscription (as opposed to 79p per track for every download), I would be all for it, and I am sure the millions of up and coming artists out there who at the moment cannot get a record deal without signing away all of their rights (including merch, publishing and touring) would be interested too.
- Anyway, I just wanted to throw in an alternative view.
Original quote below...
My current opinion is that file sharing is now the norm. This cannot be changed without an attack on perceived civil liberties which will never go down well. The problem is that the ISPs making the extreme profits (due to millions of broadband subscriptions) are not being taxed by the copyright owners correctly and this is a legislation issue. Radio stations and TV stations etc have to pay the copyright owners (both recording and publishing) a fee for using material they do not own. ISPs should have to pay in the same way with a collection agency like PRS doing the monitoring and calculations based on encoded (but freely downloaded) data. Broadband makes the internet essentially the new broadcaster. This is the point which is being missed.
Also, usage should have a value. Someone who just checks email uses minimal bandwidth, but someone who downloads 1 gig per day uses way more, but at the moment they pay the same. It is clear which user is hitting the creative industries and it is clear which user is not, so for this reason, usage should also be priced accordingly. The end result will be a taxed, monitored ISP based on usage which will ensure both the freedom of the consumer and the rights of the artists - the loser will be the ISP who will probably have to increase subscription costs to compensate, but the user will have the freedom to choose between checking a few emails (which will cost far less than a current monthly subscription) and downloading tons of music and film (which will cost probably a bit more than current subscription, but not that much more).
We should set up a meeting with Lord Mandelson as he is on this issue at the moment, I'm sure he would meet us for breakfast!