This transcript is from Jim Griffins keynote speech about Choruss at the Digital Music Forum East in March 2009. Jim Griffins heads Choruss, LLC is a non-profit organization created and supported by major music labels. Choruss aim is to provide voluntary collective licensing to universities. It amazingly is backed by both the RIAA and EFF, who usually are on opposite sides of the music file-sharing issue. Choruss would act as a collective pool and then distribute royalties to artists based on various metrics.
Mr. Griffins discusses the need for a new business model in the music industry as technology has completely changed the game. He states, "It’s a fact of life: If your business model depends on controlling or getting paid for copies of zeros and ones, you may need to look at a new business model." He explains how collective licensing has existed in various industries in various forms and now is no different. Mr. Griffins then specifically addresses a Billboard editorial written by Chris Carter on the issues facing voluntary collective licensing. He provides mitigating arguments to the issues including lack of data to allocate funds, legal implications of collective licensing, opt-in / opt-out, label favoritism, and implementation challenges. He further discusses that this is not an academic pursuit but rather an actual attempt at monetizing and regulating piracy. He stresses that the creation of the system will also expand the market and uses the Copyright Clearance Center as an example of past success. Choruss has the goal to test various systems and eventually make paying for music fast and simple because doing so will release the floodwaters for money to flow.
Mr. Griffin is basically heading up the idea of voluntary collective licensing and is the initiatives public face and voice. This transcript gives a cohesive response to critics of voluntary collective licensing. By addressing the concerns of Mr. Castle, he has provided counter-arguments necessary to push the discussion on this revolutionary concept. His answers are based in reality and admit the concerns faced but are optimistic and derived out of reason.
tagged chorus collective_licensing copyright eff electronic_frontier_foundation file_sharing free_music isp_licensing music_piracy new_economy piracy voluntary_collective_licensing wired by neild ...on 15-APR-09
Chris Castle is a California attorney who represents clients on music technology and public policy. He wrote this editorial in January 2009 and takes a much needed look at the problems with voluntary collective licensing and ISP taxes. He explores what would happen in a world where suddenly downloading music is free. The main issue he brings up is without any legitimate proven tracking sources, ISPs would basically be providing good guesses on how the fees garnished should be distributed. Other concerns he raises are about file quality, illegitimate lawsuits and the lack of feasibility of the plan in actual implementation. He further comments that the record industry would be exchanging one form of uncertainty for another.
The editorial further accuses proponents of voluntary collective licensing of ignoring the positive results in the billion dollar industry of quality digital content such as Hulu and Itunes which are experiencing successful growth. The author questions how collective funds would be distributed with no good data and the addition of another middle-man pulling money out of artists pockets. Questions are also raised about any promises to not sue ISPs, especially by those who opt-out of collective licensing. ISPs will also face issues related to other content illegally downloaded on their sites like images, movies, etc. and international trade agreements that may be tested.
While voluntary collective licensing on a topical level sounds great, Mr. Carter raises some very legitimate points and the issues that could be present in actual practice. ISPs will have to take on additional duties and are vulnerable to attack for participating as a middle-man whether it be voluntarily or involuntarily. Consumers may also be at risk in a world where authorized and unauthorized works are at their fingertips with no clear ability to distinguish between the two. If this is the case, lawsuits may continue unabated.
tagged collective_licensing copyright eff electronic_frontier_foundation file_sharing free_music isp_licensing isp_tax music_piracy new_economy piracy voluntary_collective_licensing wired by neild ...on 15-APR-09
This is The Songwriters Association of Canada’s proposal for monetizing file sharing of Canadian music. It lays out a voluntary collective licensing scheme similar to that proposed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The plan highlights its unobtrusive nature which will basically let consumers continue to download music as they wish but remove the legal risks and legitimize their actions. Consumers would have unlimited access to the world's music collection both preserving and fostering its growth. The association believes the voluntary collective licensing method will usher in a "Golden Age of creativity."
The background of the proposal provides some interesting statistics on music downloading. The estimate 98% of all music is shared and only 2% is actually purchased obviously indicating that sharing is the preferred method of the public at large to access music. The proposal also argues that legalizing file sharing would increase the amount of high quality virus-free music available as only 6mm of the 100mm recordings created are available on legal sites. Legitimizing file sharing will hence increase society's access to all music promoting the arts. It will also answer the most important dilemma: compensation for creators.
The proposal is an amendment to the current copyright act instituting collective licensing and the payment by consumers of a monthly fee on internet and wireless accounts. This would basically be a government tax but with an opt-out option. Consumers could sign documentation stating they will not share files and face penalty for breaking their agreement. Creators could also opt-out. The proposal would not only benefit consumers, but also ISPs and the music industry. ISPs would receive an administrative fee and record companies would finally receive compensation for file-sharing. The collective would be responsible for tracking music file sharing and distribution of royalties and could be outsourced to firms currently doing similar work.
Overall, the system seems very reasonable and a solution to the secular downward trend facing the record industry. The proposal is broad in its strokes, but it is the details of voluntary collective licensing that make it difficult which are not addressed. Issues such as how royalty streams are fairly distributed, misuse for non-music materials, cheating by artists, impact on record companies and current providers of legal file sharing are not fully tackled. Still the proposal takes the next steps necessary to move the method forward.
tagged canada collective_licensing copyright eff electronic_frontier_foundation file_sharing free_music isp_licensing isp_tax music_piracy new_economy piracy proposal s.a.c. voluntary_collective_licensing wired by neild ...on 15-APR-09
This is Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's whitepaper on voluntary collective licensing. The EFF has been a proponent of the idea since 2004 and put its seal of approval on current attempts to give life to the idea such as Choruss. The idea has gained traction with both Warner Music and Universal expressing interest. There has been a plethora of comments by writers, bloggers, panel discussions regarding the subject.
The paper presents voluntary collective licensing as a method to combat digital music piracy and create a legitimate revenue source for the flailing music industry. It lays out the precedent, the idea, the logic and the advantages. Voluntary collective licensing could be a way to monetize file sharing and hence provide the creators with compensation for their work, but at the same time provide consumers with what they have wanted all along, complete and uninhibited access to music. Since the creation of Napster, peer-to-peer file sharing has resulted in a secular decline of the music industry. Even through numerous evolutions and legal battles, file sharing has continued illegally and impacted recording artists. Consumers have been sued and accused by record companies of piracy, all of which has resulted in ill will towards record companies and little revenue generation for artists. Lohmann lays out the reasons voluntary collective licensing is needed including artists deserving to be compensated for their work, file-sharing has become the normal mode of music distribution, fans are in fact the best distributors, decision makers and preserves of music and finally the importance of letting the market drive innovation more than the government.
Voluntary collective licensing is compared to the system currently used by radio stations and insights are provided on how the concept will alleviate piracy in the music industry. The idea is to form "collecting societies" similar to ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC which provide music fans with unlimited downloading in exchange for a reasonable monthly fee. The fees would be collected through a variety of sources including at the ISP, university networks or subscriptions (similar to Rhapsody). All money would move to a central organization who would distribute compensation to artists based on popularity of their music, the technology for which already exists. The whitepaper further answers the most obvious questions including antitrust, division of money, and the impact on unwilling artists.