Wednesday, November 3, 2010

So what could be better than this?

For my thesis I have been re reading three proposals for an alternative to litigation with respect to illegal file sharing. The three models I have been reading about come from Terry Fisher in his text ‘Promises to Keep’, Neil Netanel’s Non Commercial Use Levy and the EFF’s White Paper in this area. While each of these have the potential to realign the digital environment to allow for compensation to artists at the same time as the free sharing of music, each appear to me to have short comings that would result in a difficult implementation.

What I wanted to write about today is what I consider to be the best alternative and in some respects this comes from a mashup of ideas that these three offer. I propose a Compulsory/Voluntary License for music only, with changes to intellectual property law to allow for 3 second or less samples of music.

The Compulsory/Voluntary License I propose to allow for file sharing would see copyright holders being forced to release their works to the public while allowing freedom of choice for consumers. For a small flat monthly fee payable by file sharers they would be offered immunity from litigation for the sharing of music for non commercial purposes. This would ensure that all music is available to listeners at the same time as recouping a significant amount of funds for artists. Digital tracking and/or population sampling would be used to ensure that the funds are distributed to copyright holders based on popularity. Applying to non commercial uses only copyright holders would remain free to negotiate prices for other uses particularly those that relate to the mass media. I propose that the funds be divided up based on popularity however a threshold of downloads would need to be achieved to receive payment. I suggest that a model be introduced that ensure that a greater number of artists receive payment for their music but also that a sector of society remain amateur. Economic modelling would ensure that the funds are divided up in a way that would mimic the market place and as such it would not be possible to remunerate artists for every single download but rather ensure a professional sector of creators receive some concentration of funds.

Furthermore I propose that copyright law be altered to allow for a 3 second sample in either non commercial or commercial works. As a person with a background in law (not music) I am painfully aware of the expense and time that artists must spend accounting for samples they seek to use in new songs. I believe a blanket 3 second rule would alleviate much of the confusion that arises with respect to sampling. A 3 second rule would enable short riffs to be used and could be looped or repeated at will without incurring the need to negotiate licenses. This would provide enormous clarity to what is right now a difficult area of the law. Follow-on creators would have the certainty they need to ensure that their compositions would not attract litigation at the same time as protecting the integrity of the original composition.

These are two of the ideas that are central to the 5th chapter of my thesis and to me appear to be the best way of achieving a balance in the current debate.

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