Warner Music takes first step to end P2P music wars

Sam Gustin of Portfolio.com reports that Warner Music group has given recording industry veteran (and friend of PK) Jim Griffin a three-year contract to develop a plan that would allow consumers to have access to all the online music they want for a monthly fee that would be bundled into their internet service bill.

Griffin has been urging the industry for years to move in this direction, arguing that suing customers and attacking technological innovation were dead ends that would not lead to any additional sales or fans. Why not try a fee of this type and get something for music shared online, as opposed to the nothing that they receive now? Griffin was right then, and he is right now. But the industry, faced with precipitously dropping CD sales and download sales that while robust, will never make up the difference, is finally listening.

Details of the plan are still being hashed out, but one proposal is for consumers to pay an additional $5 a month for the right to freely upload, download, copy and share music. Griffin believes that those fees could create a pot of money on the order of $20 billion annually to pay copyright holders. The hope is that eventually, the model could be advertiser supported, with those fans not wishing to see advertising instead paying a fee.

What is unclear is whether all ISP customers will have to pay the fee, as opposed to those who want to share music without fear of liability. EFF, for one, has proposed that only the latter be required to pay. Would it be unfair to make consumers who do not download or share music pay the fee? There are many services that individuals subsidize even if they do not use them - the family without children pays for the upkeep of schools, and the person without a car pays for highway maintenance. Is the free flow of music, the compensation of copyright holders and the demise of RIAA lawsuits against individuals and innovators the same kind of public good? What do you think?

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