Study – Legalizing Filesharing and Issuing Flat Rate is the Way to Go

There’s been no shortage of people who offer solutions to the big question on what to do with file-sharing. Some say that ISPs need to police their networks and disconnect those that even think about being involved in copyright infringement. Others say that the big media companies should accept todays technology and find ways of monetizing it. Some, like the EFF, have suggested a middle of the road approach to file-sharing should be the solution where ISPs issue a flat rate to all subscribers and, in turn, legalize file-sharing. Today the people who suggested that flat rate got quite a boost in a new German study.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The German study, which is currently being translated into English, is currently being highlighted by IP-Watch. Helga Trüpel, Green MEP and vice-chair of the Committee for Culture and Media in the European Parliament, said that the whole concept of everything should be free does not address how to “appropriately remunerate authors” and the other concept being proposed suggestion that people should be disconnected from the internet (ala three strikes law) is an inappropriate response to the issue as well. It should be noted that countless independent sources and analysis have already suggested that file-sharing has no measurable negative impact on sales. Both of those models, she says, has no future – something that most people involved in the copyright debate would find both encouraging and disappointing at the same time – though more than likely for different reasons.

So, the conclusion is to resort to a blank levy and, essentially call on a cease-fire to the entire copyright and filesharing debates.

The proposed blank levy for compensating those who are in to file-sharing has had a long history. Some can trace the blank media levy back to the EFF who have been calling for a blank levy for years. The idea behind it is the fact that when FM radio became the new piracy, the copyright industry wanted to stop the broadcasts of pirate radio, but eventually, the broadcasters wound up paying a blank levy and the problem wound up being about as solved as it could at the time. There are other cases of this kind where the solution was a blank levy – from CD blanks to automatic piano’s to a number of other cases.

Still, since we are going through history on blank levies, one can also look at the controversy surrounding them. Most of the controversy winds up being at the point where money is being distributed. Some collectives end up having a list of people they “can’t find” to pay. Meanwhile, others end up using formula’s where it seems only “top” artists receive a vast majority of the payouts while the bottom artists don’t really end up seeing any significant amount of money – if at all even when their works get used.

At the end of the day, there hasn’t been very many overwhelmingly popular ideas out there that is suppose to solve the “problem” of file-sharing. The copyright industry would never be OK with letting the networks go unabated and users would never accept being disconnected from various forms of culture that is available through the internet. The only significant proposition that isn’t either of those has been the blank levy after all these years.

Of course, the copyright industry hasn’t exactly been enthusiastic about the proposition mentioned in this study. Graham Henderson, president of CRIA (a Canadian arm of the RIAA) has been in public denouncing the idea in the past. Many file-sharers haven’t been too enthusiastic over the idea of their monthly subscription going up either. So the real problem is going to be gaining support from both parties enough to make this kind of idea a reality. Since ISPs have been pushing to throttle peoples internet connections anyway, the idea will hit an additional roadblock because of that. Perhaps the only upside so far over such a proposal is that both sides have a history of sharing an equal amount of opposition to the idea.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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