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Music megaportal might ease P2P losses – study

But legal intimidation is such fun

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Major music labels could cash in on revenues currently being lost to P2P services like Napster and Gnutella if they would only develop a consistent marketing platform such as a portal, and cross-license each others' content, according to a white paper by German outfit Diebold Group.

The paper, A Survival Plan for the Music Industry - Napster and the Consequences, recommends recourse to a marketing-profile/registration model for making the scheme profitable, while enabling the big players to compete with the Internet's alternative 'free' services.

Users would "log on to a marketing platform (to be created) and give detailed information about themselves and their consumption patterns," in exchange for access to music content, the authors suggest.

This information could then be sold at a tidy profit to marketing research and advertising outfits.

For example, in exchange "for 50 answered questions, a user gets 100 songs over a period of one month. Shortly before the end of this 'free subscription', he will be reminded of this by e-mail, at the same time receiving a list of new questions, which if answered will qualify him for more free music."

Clearly, the questions will have to be particularized dramatically in order for such a scheme to work on a rolling basis. We also think a modest subscription fee would be a welcome alternative for those whose anonymity means more than a few dollars a month. But for music lovers on a tight budget, like teenagers, the profiling scheme makes sense.

The authors acknowledge that a considerable investment in research and marketing would be required to make the scheme fly, but point out that "such investments....offer far more future security than the difficult or even pointless pursuit of illegal online suppliers or the constant search for new encryption algorithms."

Sensible, yes; but the industry is founded on an intimidation infrastructure, and has shown a marked disinclination to beat swords into ploughshares regardless of any cost/benefit rationale. And surely their own legions of ravenous litigators and lobbyists would counsel strenuously against any evolutionary step which threatened to make them obsolete.

As we learned during our Australian holiday: once you start feeding the crocks, getting rid of the gluttonous beasts later on becomes a most delicate challenge. ®

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