Friday, June 06, 2008

BPN 1120 Downloading music made legal

Downloading music from the net could become legal if users paid for it through their ISP. This proposal comes from STIM, Swedish Performing Rights Society, a not-for-profit incorporated collecting society with 60,000 members, which looks after music rights. STIM are now inviting ISPs to work with them to make this vision a reality.

Sanctions and legal proceedings against file sharers cannot be the long-term fix for music creators missing out on royalties through the illegal sharing of music over the Internet. Instead STIM is inviting ISPs to work with us to develop a new type of Internet plan under which music downloading will be legal. This could be done by ISPs signing license agreements with STIM and other rights holders.

Until now the debate about file sharing and copyright has been conducted like an intensifying trench warfare between two irreconcilable camps. On the one side there are calls for continued ownership of artistic property on the net, increased control over the online exchange of music and other products, and a single-minded focus on the prosecution of illegal file sharing. While the other side mutters about an approaching police state and seems happy to toss out the copyright baby with the bathwater.

Obviously collecting societies laws that allow the effective prosecution of systematic criminal activity. Sweden needs to update ita legislation to European standard as it is seen behind the pack when it comes to having effective means of going after openly illegal activity online. Laws that state clearly what is and what is not allowed will always have an important place in shaping popular attitudes to copyright on artistic materials. But they will never be the whole solution.

The file sharing phenomenon, in which large networks of Internet users upload music and other files to be copied by others, exploits the full potential of Internet technology, making large volumes of music available for download anywhere in the world by quite simple means.

STIM wants to sit down and talk with ISPs about what can be done to offer users a way of paying through their Internet charges for the music streaming through the providers’ networks — a way of making their music surfing legal.

Typically it will mean increasing the ordinary Internet user’s monthly charge by an amount related to the overall use of music on the net. In return, they will be free to legally download music from the net for their own use.

STIM understands the providers’ objections to having what they perceive as a law enforcement role thrust upon them. But STIM believes that they will realise it is in their commercial interest to be able to offer services with added value over those they can offer today—services that will let customers use the Internet in a way that conforms to their own moral code and sense of fairness, without special action on their part.

STIM hopes to find one or two providers will take the lead with an “ethical” broadband offering. An obvious target group is parents worried about their Internet connection being used by teenage offspring for illegal file sharing. But in time STIM hope that ‘legal free Internet’ will become the new norm, offered as standard by ISPs to private customers.

In the fall, trials will be held in order to find out which MP# files are exchanged; these trials are based on checking ID3 codes in music files. Swedish ISPs have shown interest in the model. Tele2 is considering hiking the charges with a surcharge of 5 euro extra per month. This charge is based on research by Terry Fisher (see photograph) of the Berkman Center, part of Harvard Law School. He has calculated that a surcharge of six dollars a month would compensate 20 per cent of the music and movie revenues.

It looks like Sweden will supercede France which in 2006 was also thinking about this kind of measure, but never converted this intention in law and practice. Also in The Netherlands thre is still a discussion going on. Recently the NVPI, the music producers association, pleaded for regulation through ISPs, who should take action in the case of illegal downloading. NVPI would like to see the introduction of graduate response. Subscribers infringing on copyright should get a warning. If they despite warnings continue, the access should be limited to internet banking and e-mail for some weeks. If the subscriber continues illegal downloading after the full restoration of facilities,an ISP should be able to execute permanent measures.

Blog Posting Number: 1120

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