So combined, that's $1.677 billion to keep the RIAA and the MPAA happy.
But of course that's not all it would cost: the model requires an organization to calculate and distribute the royalties, performing the duties of ASCAP or BMI today. ASCAP reported that its 1998 administrative overhead was 16 per cent, so Fisher generously estimates 20 per cent. (It's pretty generous, as we'll see, because the digital overhea ds may actually be much lower). This takes - and bear with us, because it also generously throws in a 10 per cent charge for inflation between 2000 and 2004 - the net result to $2.306 billion.
So who pays?
Raising the money
If it was implemented as a regressive poll tax, with 87 million household filing IRS returns, each household would pay a mere $27 extra a year: a little over $2 a month, or 51 cents a week. That's half the price of a single iTunes Music Store song.
That's the most efficient way, with the lowest overheads.
However, any kind of income tax increase is obviously a hard sell, especially in God and Gubbment-fearing America. And there are many sound objections. Why should the poor subsidize the rich? Why, notes Fisher (who clearly must remember the culture wars of the early 1990s), should a proportion of the population which finds the entertainment products blasphemous be asked to subsidize their creators? And why should Net-free households want to subsidize the broadband users who are actually taking advantage of the system?
Fisher then exhaustively discusses four other options: taxing the playback devices and/or burners, levies on the physical media, levies on the delivery service, such as KaZaa, or on the Internet access point (your ISP). The latter is by far the largest: spending on broadband in the US in 2004 is estimated to be $16.4 billion. By contrast, blank media sales generate $2 billion in revenue. In total, these four categories gross $20.248 billion. And so to get our $2.3 billion to compensate artists, studios and labels would require an 11 per cent hike.