The EFF has proposed a licensing system for music to replace the existing, starting-to-fail model, in A Better Way Forward: Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing. The RIAA, not surprisingly, dismissed the proposal as too drastic. I agree with many of the comments on the slashdot thread.
The numbers used in the EFF article are unrealistic. They’re assuming that all 60 million file sharers in the US will pay $5 a month, and that the $3 billion taken in is pure profit, compared to the $11 billion in revenue the RIAA members have today. This sure sounds like the EFF doesn’t understand where the RIAA’s money goes. Sure, a chunk of it goes into physical production, distribution and the retailers’ share. But, they also spend chunks of money actually, you know, producing recordings. They also spend money promoting the artists. Occasionally, they’ve been known to give a dollar or two to the artists themselves.
OK, so maybe the target price isn’t $5. I’d certainly pay $10 per month to legally have access to a gigantic catalog of non-DRMed music files. But, getting the RIAA to agree to this seems like it would be next to impossible, because it puts individual artists on the same level in terms of distribution as they are. Control of distribution is a strong competitive advantage, and they wouldn’t want artists and independent labels being in as strong a position. This would be a tough sell.
I’m not ruling out the possibility that a government intervention will be needed here, and I just hope that Congress keeps a balanced perspective when the question comes up.
As an aside: the EFF is a great organization that is well worth supporting, even if this particular plan does not seem quite workable.