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.