A Better Way Forward:
Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing
The current battles surrounding peer-to-peer file sharing are a losing proposition for everyone. The record labels continue to face lackluster sales, while the tens of millions of American file sharers—American music fans—are made to feel like criminals. Every day the collateral damage mounts—privacy at risk, innovation stymied, economic growth suppressed, and a few unlucky individuals singled out for legal action by the recording industry. And the litigation campaign against music fans has not put a penny into the pockets of artists.
We need a better way forward
The Proposal: Voluntary Collective Licensing
EFF has spent the past year evaluating alternatives that get artists paid while making file sharing legal. One solution has emerged as the favorite: voluntary collective licensing.
The concept is simple: the music industry forms a collecting society, which then offers file-sharing music fans the opportunity to "get legit" in exchange for a reasonable regular payment, say $5 per month. So long as they pay, the fans are free to keep doing what they are going to do anyway—share the music they love using whatever software they like on whatever computer platform they prefer—without fear of lawsuits. The money collected gets divided among rights-holders based on the popularity of their music.
In exchange, file-sharing music fans will be free to download whatever they like, using whatever software works best for them. The more people share, the more money goes to rights-holders. The more competition in applications, the more rapid the innovation and improvement. The more freedom to fans to publish what they care about, the deeper the catalog.
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