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How the music biz can live forever, get even richer, and be loved

A modest proposal

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So in addition to the portable sharing, we're looking at ten years of P2P file sharing and a lot of ifs.

So how are you going to monetize your rights, then? You need to be paid and you have shareholders to answer to. When file sharing becomes ubiquitous, and unstoppable, that's the question they'll be asking.

But this is an opportunity.

So here's a modest proposal. Stop trying to prevent file sharing, and start counting it. Lobby to raise some money from somewhere. It could be a tax, it could be a fee on your phone bill, it could be a broadband tax, it could be an hifi or iPod tax. (Germany taxes CD burners) But the figures for these are very low. The United States alone could subsidize its movie and recording industries for two dollars a week per household out of general taxation. That's everything. Permanent income for life - assuming people watch or listen to the stuff - for a rounding error.

If we compensate only a small part of what you say you're losing - say twenty per cent of your revenues, then that's $27 (£15.25) a year; 51 (28p) cents a week. For less than a bag of crisps per household per week, the record industry's piracy problem will have disappeared. Many people think that's fair - certainly in Europe! But there are deep ideological objections associated with general taxation in the USA, and few Americans would share the view that they pay for the rest of the world to get a free ride.

Yes, there'll be shareholder lawsuits. Your shareholders may sue that your business won't grow. You'll win this one, because it's all about selling stuff: these aren't commies going to steal your property. Governments don't even need to get involved, here.

But you will need to remember how to sell music again. That's what you're supposed to be good at, and it's what I hope you'll do.

Let's go through the options. Anyone not on the Internet isn't doing a lot of file sharing. So why should they pay, either? A broadband tax on US users of around $5 a month would compensate both the recording and movie industries 20 per cent of 2000 revenues. Since CD sales are going up, and the link between p2p sharing and is contentious at best that would be a fair figure.

But in the future, most file sharing will be done between people in an ad hoc, personal network.

What happens then?

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