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See That Train a Comin’

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Now an Internet tax for file sharing has broached the pages of the NY Times – the meme is in the air. Do you doubt it will be the answer?

    Others fear that, as the futility of technological fixes becomes clearer, the response may be onerous legal restrictions on the Internet and how people use it. “You don’t want to break the kneecaps of the Internet to protect one relatively small industry, the recording business,” Mr. Lessig, the Stanford professor, said.

    William Fisher, a Harvard law professor, offers a solution for the recording industry’s Internet challenge, and one that borrows from the past. When radio became popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s and began broadcasting copyrighted songs, the record companies, singers and bands protested. The answer was to have the radio stations pay the copyright holders and set up a measuring system so the largest payments went for the most popular songs.

    In a book to be published next year, Mr. Fisher recommends placing a 15 percent tax on Internet access and a 15 percent tax on devices used for storing and copying music and movies like CD-burners, MP3 players and blank CD’s.

    The funds raised, he estimates, would be about $2.5 billion in 2004, roughly the projected amount the recording industry and Hollywood would lose to online piracy. The music business and Hollywood would get refunds based on what works were the most popular downloads.

    “It’s not perfect,” Mr. Fisher admitted.

    Still, it does represent what is not much in evidence today – some sort of middle ground that would compensate rights holders but also move with the march of technology and consumer behavior instead of merely trying to fight it.

    “With music file sharing, you have a cultural norm that is being established by what is technologically possible,” said Daniel Weitzner, a director at the World Wide Web Consortium. “That is very hard to resist.”

Hop on or get run over. Our own Shuman has a similar alternative here.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Ugh. I’m not even a Republican, and I hate this idea. No new taxes! The Internet and the innovation on it will come to a screeching halt [okay, maybe that’s a bit over the top] if we start taxing the very thing it’s made for: information exchange.

    Also, my mp3 player can also be used as regular flash memory. Why should I pay a special tax for that, or really, any kind of data storage?

    I think the key is to somehow change the attitude of the RIAA, not start taxing the people who want the music. They’re already complaining that it’s too expensive to buy CDs. The RIAA needs to figure out that they’re chasing away their own customers. When they do, they’ll change their business model.

  • Eric Olsen

    This is not substantially different from the voluntary model offered by Shuman, this one just making “participation” mandatory – if the voluntary model works, great, but in operation this would be no more onerous than tha gasoline tax that helps pay for roads and environmental clean up.

    The central element is to codigy and encourage the free flow of information over the Internet, to prevent incursions into personal privacy, and to get creators paid. I am open to any method that will accomplish these things and banish the dreaded DMCA to the junkyard of infamy and failed experiments.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    The funds raised, he estimates, would be about $2.5 billion in 2004, roughly the projected amount the recording industry and Hollywood would lose to online piracy.

    it’s statements like this that make my blood boil. they are tossed up into the wind and assumed factual. it’s pure crap.

    yes, cd purchases are down.

    are downloads the cause?

    gee, i don’t know….dvd purchases have gone crazy in the last few years, at that’s been during a pretty nasty economic slump.

    is every download lost money for the big lables?

    is every dvd sold money that could have gone toward a cd buy?

    there’s never any debate about this on the big media outlets. at least none that gets beyond the most shallow of issues.

  • Eric Olsen

    I totally agree the estimated dollars lost is always greatly inflated in the mainstream media, who take their cues directly from the copyright industry without giving it much critical thought. But that means this approach would be even more lucrative to creators than the current system, so much the better.