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Canuck record labels accuse tunesmiths of smoking opium

'Flat-rate music-swapping is a pipe dream'

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Canadian songwriters want to give the entire country unfettered access to any and all online music for a flat monthly fee. Meanwhile, the major Canadian record labels want the songwriters to quit smoking opium.

The Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) has proposed a plan that would charge every Canuck internet user a flat monthly fee for sharing tunes on the web. To wit, anyone in the country could download tunes via P2P without running afoul of the law.

But in an interview with Reuters, the president of the Canadian Record Industry Association (CRIA) - the organization that represents the country's largest labels - was less than optimistic about this plan. "We don't want to pursue what amounts to a pipe dream that is presented as a quick fix," the CRIA's Graham Henderson said. "We'll lose focus on the real issues that will help us resolve the industry's problems."

We phoned Henderson to learn more about this opium analogy, but we've yet to hear back.

Meanwhile, the organization that represents Canada's independent record labels - Canadian Independent Record Production Association (CIRPA) - thinks this idea might be a good one. "We're happy that someone is working on this issue, but it's difficult for us to get attention; the major labels control the bulk of the physical and digital market," Duncan McKie, the president and CEO of the CIRPA, told us. "Nonetheless, the problem has gotten to the point where this might be part of the solution."

Under the plan, each Canadian internet user would be charged an extra $5 Canadian - which by our very rough estimates equals US$8,475.67 - a month. SAC claims this would raise a whopping one billion Canadian dollars each year to be distributed among artists, labels, and publishers.

But it's yet to be seen who would get what share. This is just a proposal, and with the CRIA still calling it a pipe dream, it's a long way from landing on the desks of Canadian lawmakers.

CIRPA's McKie believes that, at the very least, this plan will have to wait until the Canadian government introduces new copyright legislation, expected in the coming weeks. "There's an 800 pound gorilla in the room: We're expecting there will be a new copyright bill in Canada and depending on what's said there, it may have an effect on this," he said. The bill may attempt to put the squeeze on file-sharers.

But even if the labels do join the songwriters in pushing the flat-fee plan, someone would have to convince Canadian ISPs that this proposal is a good idea. And as much as we'd like to see it, that's not likely to happen. Maybe this pipe dream analogy is a good one. ®

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