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RIAA talks flat fees, and how they turned the French

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Turning the French

Another questioner asked about the same subject - the French parliament's pursuit of legalising P2P and setting up a blanket license for ISPs to compensate artists. This would have provided the industry a new revenue source, and compensated artists for trades where they don't currently receive a cent.

After a first vote year ago approving the plan, debate raged for three months, largely under the radar of the Anglo-Saxon press, before finally being rejected.

If you were thinking someone had got to the French between the first vote and the second, you'd be correct.

"On the 21st of December 2005, at 2am, the whole world got out of control," said Kennedy.

"Global licensing was going to be imposed on us, and our first thought was this wasn't thought through. We didn't even know if it was going to be compulsory or voluntary.

Kennedy sought out the French weak spot.

"Now the French music market is unique in that it is not so influenced by US or English, as most markets are. So we went to the French and asked them, 'What's the most important thing about your music market?', and they thought, and then gave the right answer. That was when the penny dropped."

"We asked, 'Who's going to invest in French music?' With an ISPs and a flat fee, you're going to have more US companies and American music dominating the French market."

Now the funny thing about the nationalist argument is that I've also heard the exact opposite advanced as a reason against a digital flat fee.

According to this argument, national markets go decidedly off-track. They start rewarding their own, and developing their own talent, and the global reach of American corporations is permanently damaged.

Which one is more likely? It depends on how music flows in the future. If you only get music through the web, then this may favour American corporations: the web is decidedly flavoured by Californian brands such as Google, eBay and Yahoo!, not to mention MSN.

But if your iPod fills itself from a ubiquitous wireless connection, it's going to reflect what's playing in your neighbourhood. So if you walk past a Bistrot, you'll be hearing French pop. If you get drunk in a German Bierkeller, you'll be able to download some thigh-slapping drinking music (or German pop). And if you're in English boozer, the chances are it'll be the Arctic Monkeys.

Because rights holders are rewarded by totting up the digital exchanges between devices, a blanket license will naturally favour local cultures - provided they make that music available to their citizens (as any small shop can).

Only cultures which don't promote their own music lose out - and you could argue that they deserve to.

That's something the French hadn't thought through, either, as they were being mugged by the RIAA.

But expect to hear both contradictory cases advanced at the same time. ®

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