Fred von Lohman, senior staff attorney of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and attorney for the Princeton student sued for billions by the RIAA, writes in the Daily Princetonian on the digital download miasma:
- Suing college students. Forcing ISPs to rat out customers. Petitioning Congress for unprecedented vigilante powers. Deploying armies of lawyers to sue technology companies. Threatening universities and corporations. Demanding that ISPs disconnect tens of thousands of Internet users. Hiring electronic enforcers to monitor computer users.
None of these efforts by the recording industry has put a single nickel into the pockets of a musician. And none of these efforts has slowed the spread of peer-to-peer (“P2P”) file sharing. More Americans have used file-sharing software than voted for the President.
….The right answer is obvious: We need to collect a pool of money from Internet users, and agree on a fair way to divide it among the artists and copyright owners. Copyright lawyers call this a “compulsory license.” It might work something like this: Internet service providers (including universities) might add a flat monthly surcharge to the fees they charge for Internet access. Part of these fees would be remitted to the record labels, while some would be paid directly to the artists (who today frequently are victims of unfair contracts and crooked royalty accounting). The fees would be divided up fairly, based on popularity on the file-sharing networks, measured with sampling methods like the Neilsen ratings that respect our privacy while tabulating the P2P “charts.” Having paid the fee, fans could engage in private, noncommercial file-sharing without worrying about being hunted down like criminals.
….The university environment could be a testing ground for alternative compulsory licensing models. In exchange for standing up strongly for their users’ privacy rights, universities could begin negotiating for experimental campus-wide blanket licenses for file-sharing.
Universities are testing grounds for every manner of social and intellectual experiment – why not this one?