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Freedom, abundance, and a tenner a month

And with fewer companies in control of the cashflow, artists and songwriters have less bargaining power. While we enjoy watching popstars being created on TV shows, the contracts the contestants have to sign in order to participate are among the harshest in the business. Now Bono is asking us to accept that the cost of maintaining this control should be shared by us all: in the form of higher prices for an internet that we can do less with, and on which we can expect to be monitored by his business partners.

A Damascene conversion for Bono is presumably too much to ask for, but what of the efforts that are being made around the world to get the cash and music flowing without Bonoian snooping and filtering becoming part of the internet? ISPs in many countries in Europe and around the world stand ready to offer unlimited music services for a monthly fee, and consumers are saying clearly that they value music and are willing to pay. The Isle of Man has spent the last year in discussion with the music industry about using the island as an opportunity to learn what happens when you do take the restrictions off, in return for money.

In fact for the last three years we have been on the cusp of something rather wonderful - an age of freedom and abundance in music in which opportunity for new artists and songwriters is actually part of the system, rather than something only attainable with extreme perseverance and a huge amount of luck.

What is holding all this up is the music industry, throwing spanners, making unreasonable demands, being disorganised and confusing, and preferring to lobby for snooping and disconnection rights rather than getting on with the business of making and selling music.

So, Bono, how about it? Filling up a USB stick and swapping files in the playground should be one of the joys of youth, not something liable to get you cut off and in trouble with your parents. And does it really matter if a tenner a month is split with a few indie artists and fledgling songwriters? The big money will still be yours, as you rightly point out.

The kids are not eating your lunch any time soon. Because in so many ways you are doing much to deliver freedom and choice to a world which has treated you well, and especially to its children. Progress is surely giving more to more people, rather than restricting freedom to preserve the wealth of the few. ®

Paul Sanders is a founder of Playlouder MSP, the world's first ISP licensed for music file-sharing. He is also a founder of the state51 conspiracy, an independent digital music distributor, and founder and director of strategy at Consolidated Independent, a digital media technical service provider. He chronicled the music industry's greatest digital flops for us here in 2008.

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