Cory Doctorow is one of the smartest people currently writing about technology, see today’s piece from him in The Guardian if you don’t believe me. The backroom deal that just went down in the UK between ISPs and the major record labels is not good news for the future of the music business, or for the future of the internet, period. But Cory compellingly makes the case that the only real security blanket left for the entertainment industries, is the idea of the blanket license:
“It’s historically inevitable: whenever technology makes it impossible to police a class of copyright use, we’ve solved the problem by creating blanket licenses.
“The record industry itself was the first beneficiary of this system: when the US sheet-music publishers sued the record-makers for selling recordings of their compositions, they were given a simple solution: anyone is allowed to record your music, provided they pay you a set fee for it. No one has to pay a lawyer $500/hour to negotiate whether this track on this album will cost $0.10 per disc or $0.05. And when the record companies objected to the radio stations playing their discs without compensation or permission, the answer was a blanket licence for records played on air. It’s the tried-and-true answer to the problem of copyright-disrupting technology:
* acknowledge that it’s going to happen;
* find a place to collect a toll;
* charge a fee that’s low enough to get buy-in from the majority;
* ignore the penny-ante fee evaders;
* sue the blistering crap out of the big-time fee-evaders.
“This is the shareholder-value-maximising answer that actually brings revenue into the pockets of artists and record companies. It co-opts the majority of filesharers into being active participants in a legitimate transaction instead of everyone starting off as outlaws who have nothing to lose and no reason to come to the bargaining table except for fear of legal reprisals (this fear is notoriously ineffective at moderating the behavior of children).
“Ten years ago, the record industry had a simple little problem they could have solved by showing a tiny amount of future-looking flexibility. A decade of intransigence and stubborness has bred a killer strain of antibiotic-resistant filesharing technology that grows more and more difficult to police by the year. The sheet music publishers didn’t get to control the destiny of the record companies, who couldn’t control the broadcasters, who couldn’t control the cable operators, who couldn’t control the VCR makers.
“The record industry will not be in charge of the characteristics of filesharing systems. They may get remunerated for their use, but they won’t be able to dictate their functionality, no matter how many children they criminalise. If they want to cash in on filesharing, they’d better do it soon, before every potential licence fee payer decides to opt out of the system forever.”
Read the whole thing here.