very interesting discussion everybody, thanks, I've been reminded and made
aware of many important points. especially the original wording of the Berne
copyright resolution, great to read.
ever the pragmatist, I do question though how relevant this debate actually
is to a real solution. to put it crassly - the combined production costs and
profit margins of every artist on this list probably add up to much less
than those of one single hollywood blockbuster. I'm still struggling with it
myself conceptually, but the framework has changed quite a bit from around
five years ago, when the main issue was mp3 file sharing. but while the
music industry itself has undergone huge changes - I'm thinking of how cheap
it has become to record broadcast-quality music - the film/tv industry
continues to rely on stupendous budgets and huge production teams. in terms
of financial risk, this is who stands to suffer the most from copyright
infringement. even if we don't give a rats' arse about mainstream film/tv
and its corporate frameworks, this is (I boldly claim) the bulk of content
being shared on the net these days - why else would people have 40 GB
broadband plans! so whatever the next stage in the evolution of copyright
and copyright reinforcement is, that's the main issue it'll have to address.
hollywood's plethora of lawyers won't have it any other way.
in other words, it's not the protection of individual artists' rights that's
at stake, but the protection of corporate investment (as much as I hate to
say it). this hasn't really changed since the days of "home taping is
killing the record industry". in the commercial distribution of art/music,
the rights of the artists themselves have never really meant that much, have
they? I'm rudely ignoring the indie cottage industries here, I know, and
also the importance of the ongoing struggle against corporate domination.
but while the internet has been great for enabling artists to pursue direct
distribution models, the bulk of all internet file sharing surely involves
corporately-owned/distributed content. and for as long as audiences continue
to favour palatable canonical pap, that's exactly what copyright regulation
will remain focused on. so while we can passionately advocate or reject the
various tenets of copyright protectionism, I think we're kidding ourselves
to believe our artist perspectives will have much impact on any new laws
personally I can't see the proposed law changes (amended or not) radically
changing download behaviour. if we can already download media files as
collections of strands from multiple sources, surely there will be plenty of
loopholes to be found around whatever policing system may be introduced. the
internet just isn't designed to be monitored. also if we look at the
three-decade-long history of software piracy - where pretty much every
anti-piracy measure has been cracked - I just don't see how any meaningful
protection could be offered to simple media files. as far as I can tell, the
policing of copyright on the internet is a huge (and prohibitively costly)
uphill struggle and will probably never be resolved in a satisfactory way.
which is why I was suggesting another approach a few days ago - an internet
traffic tax. thanks bronwyn for pointing out the isle of man scenario, it'll
be interesting to see if and how it happens!
I've thought on this idea a bit more (which btw. I'm still not sure is
really any good), if anyone's interested:
the main premise is that users would have to pay the tax as part of their
connection fee (e.g. by the GB), and that it removes any incentive for them
to cheat the system. although this is an over-simplified model, the
difference in mp3/mov file sizes seems to be vaguely indicative of the
difference in their associated production costs, so a volume-based tax would
(very arguably) be representative of the users' extent of media consumption
(very very arguably taking into consideration the traffic of streaming and
video conferencing, and the crossover with online sales).
the other main difficulty would be how the resulting revenue pie was
divvyied up among millions of copyright owners. one approach would be
periodic random sampling of net traffic, and for registered copyright owners
(or more likely their associated royalty collection agencies) to be allotted
payments that reflect analysed trends rather than specific ownership.
another approach would be for all files protected by copyright to have
trackable ownership tags. such a tagging/monitoring system would of course
open the privacy can of worms, and it would also be susceptible to hacking.
however if my imagined tax was paid by volume (whatever way this might work)
and regardless of actual content, there would be no real incentive for users
to cheat. (tax regulation - to stem free market capitalist greed - isn't
this what we want? back to the regulated market utopia?)
another consideration would be the amount of money involved for users. this
wouldn't be a tax to generate the equivalent revenue of sale prices but
simply to cover the licensing cost, and even that at a much lower level than
now. that may be hard to accept for corporate content owners, but they are
currently headed for a web disaster anyway. this idea would actually
guarantee copyright owners a base level of reimbursement for their
one final point to consider (in what has become an increasingly tangential
rant, sorry!) is the role of the ISPs. as illegal as much video downloading
is, it does represent immense profits to ISPs. because of this, I'd imagine
for the ISPs to chip in on this tax, and also to provide the
monitoring/tracking/sampling services needed to make it happen. I don't
think they could very well refuse, seeing it's them who are (in effect)
facilitating all of the piracy at the moment, and who would stand to benefit
greatly from increased net traffic.
any comments/criticisms appreciated - this is (literally) a feverish rant
and I've certainly taken a few convenient conceptual shortcuts. I guess I'd
just like to hear some constructive ideas about the future of file sharing
(or is it too simplistic to nail the current copyright issues to this?),
rather than individual artistic positions on what copyright should or
Yes, this is a popular idea that has been mooted. The Isle of Man have come
closest to implementing it from what I've heard, however I don't believe it
has gone through:
You've captured one of the main issues with this idea in your first
paragraph: this tends to be discarded as an idea as there is an issue of who
will track the data, and administer the divvying up of costs - and ISPs
aren't exactly leaping to put their hands up. A much simpler and direct
option is for music/film companies just to make their content available
legally online so consumers can go to their online shop and purchase what
they want. Of course, with the internet being a big copying machine, and
copying being so easy, IMHO the cost of this media should be much cheaper so
that the legal alternative is not a prohibitive one for financial reasons.
> just thinking aloud a thought I had the other night:
> how about an overall tax/fee rather than individual copyright payments?
> a broadcasting fee for the internet but tailored to usage parameters. might
> require some pretty severe, privacy-invading tracking of content though if
> the resulting revenue-pie was to be split fairly...
> so the idea might be backward-thinking garbage, but I think if there was no
> constant pay/steal right/wrong pressure, people's download behaviour would
> be much more balanced - i.e. just what they actually want, and not all
> series of the wire at once (just in case its a once-in-a-lifetime
> opportunity). after all, most download-type entertainment is pretty crap,
> and that's a lot easier to realise if there's no entry fee associated with
> or am I barking up completely the wrong tree?