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Plan would have students pay flat fee for unlimited access to P2P

A number of U.S. universities expressed interest in plans for a “music tax,” where students would pay a flat fee as part of their tuition in return for the promise of no lawsuits from the RIAA.

The plan, spearheaded by Warner Music’s Jim Griffin, would essentially free up copyright enforcement resources in place at the RIAA and universities in favor of a “blanket license” of sorts – even though the actual language of the plan simply grants a promise not to sue.

Money collected will be dispersed to artists through a means that has yet to be determined.

Griffin, a long-time cheerleader of “music surcharge” proposals, says the plan is still in its early stages. Despite that, however, he tells TechDirt that he is “actively engaged with universities and other parties to seek a constructive resolution to a complex issue,” and that his plan is “exactly the type of solution that several universities and their associations have been asking for.”

The anonymous tipster reports that interested schools include Columbia, Stanford, University of Chicago, University of Washington, MIT, University of Colorado, University of Michigan, Cornell, Penn State, University of California at Berkeley and the University of Virginia. Further supporting his claims is a PowerPoint presentation pitched to universities and signed by Mark Luker of EDUCAUSE .

The presentation, which Griffin says “belongs to someone outside [Warner Music] and represents that individual's interpretation of… meetings held several months ago,” says the plan is designed to:

  • Allow students access and the use of any music they want.
  • Avoid DMCA issues and lawsuits.
  • Avoid technological regulations that might hinder university networks.
  • Provide “fair” returns for copyright holders.

TechDirt notes that the idea is an adaptation of a larger surcharge suggested for all U.S. ISPs, where they would simply “add an additional fee to everyone's internet access, have that money go into a pool that the recording industry would be responsible for paying out.”

“This is a bad idea for a variety of reasons,” writes TechDirt’s Mike Massnick. “It's basically a music tax – allowing the record industry to be lazy. Someone else gets to go out and collect all this money and hand it over to the industry to distribute … It effectively sets the business model of the recording industry in stone, and harms better, more innovative business models by inserting the recording industry (and not the musicians) into a role where they don't belong.”

“We recognize that there are many different potential solutions to this issue, and we are determined to continue to think creatively and cooperatively with other parties in order to find the best ones,” replies Griffin. “At this early stage, many ideas may be discussed and discarded, but efforts to prematurely label or criticize the process only hinder achievement of constructive solutions.”

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RE: What will this do?
By wvh on 12/8/2008 6:46:35 PM , Rating: 2
But principally, this means the RIAA is taxing people without any proof of them having obtained any music through illegal means. Pretty soon, a part of everyone's taxes will go to private industry and lobbying fractions such as the RIAA and MPAA.

In many European countries, you pay extra tax on empty data CDs/DVDs which goes to the recording industry, because it is assumed that you are a thief when you buy empty CDs/DVDs. It turns music into a government/tax supported non-negotiable service, not just temporarily, but forever.

I don't agree with the music industry or any private business being supported by taxes. This is a one-way street to hell where private corporations can tax the public and individuals loose the right to choose. It is truly shocking how far this has come, with major industries being supported by government in what is supposed to be a free market economy.

And I'm supposedly a socialist European, for crying out loud...

RE: What will this do?
By Some1ne on 12/8/2008 7:51:02 PM , Rating: 2
Your concerns seem more ideological than practical. The fee is less like taxing people for doing something illegal than it is like charging them for a service (the ability to download and redistribute an unlimited quantity of music). If some users choose not to utilize that service, then that's their choice. Though as I said, having an "opt out" option for people who *never* want to take advantage of the service makes sense.

Assuming you agree that the maintaining the current status quo benefits no one, how would you suggest we get past the current impasse then? How do we legitimize P2P content distribution while at the same time ensuring that content producers are still fairly compensated for their work, without something that resembles a tax? I'm all for alternative solutions to the issue, but I'm having a hard time seeing any.

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