p2p news view / p2pnet: Two very important reports have been released recently highlighting the increasing potential for a broadband subscriber based levy for music file sharing in Australia.
The first report was that of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ) showing that Australia had one of the highest per-capita growths in broadband subscriptions between 2004 and 2005. By December 2005, 2,785,000 Australians had broadband access, ranked 17th overall in total broadband subscriptions, the rate represents around 10% of the Australian population.
The second report was the Yearly Sales Data of the Australian Record Industry Association which showed total sales for 2005 to be $547,058,256.
This means that the entire sales of ARIA for 2005 could have been recouped by a broadband levy of $16.37 per month. On the face of it, this may seem a little high and many would argue that it would force some subscribers to go back to dial up internet services, however this represents an absolute maximum cost, there are other options available.
One possibility would be to spread the cost over dial up users, raising their internet access by as little as $3-5 per month could see a tiered payment system whereby all internet users assist with the funding of music but those with a faster connection pay slightly more.
Another option would be to introduce such a levy to compensate for actual losses rather than the entire industry. Taking the sales data of AIRA over the past ten years shows a peak in sales in 2001 of $647,620,000 (a level they realistically have a very limited chance of ever achieving again) with a low in 2005 of $547,058,256 which equates to a total drop over this period of $100,561,744 annually. To recoup just this loss, broadband subscriptions would need to rise only $3.01 per month. The broadband levy could be adjusted annually to ensure the industry is adequately compensated, and as broadband subscriptions rise, the amount paid per connection would most likely drop.
Ideally the money would be collected by a royalty collection society such as APRA, or one specifically developed just to collect internet based fees (given that there are some important policy reasons why ISPs should remain as neutral communication providers).
Methods for dividing up the funds include the use of watermarks to track downloads thus ensuring artists (and record labels) are compensated according to popularity. Another option (although slightly less accurate) would be to sample traffic flows, much in the same way radio broadcasts are sampled to determine the division of funds to artists. Although some would argue that it would be unfair to saddle all broadband consumers with such a levy given that some may not in fact access digital music on the internet, the flow on effect would be to ensure the continued production of CDs, and the continued availability of music on radio and other mediums, something that we all engage in, in one way or another.
This proposal doesn’t include film, which many would argue, should be treated the same way. While this is a topic that could result in a lengthy debate, there are some reasons why music and other media should be treated separately. First of all, music plays a much different role in culture and society than film, it is much more pervasive, and historically more easily and readily shared. Furthermore the production time and costs are significantly different with films often involving hundreds of people and years of production.
In many areas of law, drugs being one example, different remedies and approaches are implemented depending on the nature of the product in question, cannabis for example is treated differently to harder drugs. The same logic should apply to copyrighted works – music, film, and software for that matter, are all very different products, it is a failing of copyright, or perhaps a direct result of vested interests that they are all treated the same.
Today a music broadband levy in Australia is a very real possibility, it would open up income possibilities to all musicians regardless of whether they are signed to a major label, it would ensure artists are adequately compensated and most importantly of all, it would prevent Australia from going down the same path as the United States and many other countries, of individual file sharing prosecutions which do nothing but make lawyers rich and alienate music fans. Most importantly it would also preserve and encourage free speech, the free flow of culture and contribute directly to a democratic and civil society.
JunkGarage – Australia