One of the frustrations of 2005 has been the music industry’s continued failure to grasp the opportunities offered by digital music.
When it comes to the digital copyright battle, illegal filesharers and record companies are like two tired boxers in a ring, both stubbornly refusing to back down as they dodge each other’s wild punches.
The current stand-off, however, can’t continue forever. Musicians are not going to produce music for free but, despite the fact online sales are growing, there is still a large section of the general public that is not prepared to accept the price or purchasing terms offered by the record companies.
Napster, I have no wish to pay you for music that will be become unplayable as soon as I leave your service - I want to own my music not rent it. Nor do I see how record companies can justify 79p for an individual track when they are benefiting from significant manufacturing and distribution savings.
One idea that has long been touted as possible way of breaking the deadlock is the idea of a flat fee, or "alternative compensation system" (ACS), levied on ISPs, to create a pool of money, which will then be used to compensate the right’s holders.
In one of the first signs of a possible breakthrough the French parliament last week voted to amend the country’s copyright laws to create just such a scheme. Uploading would still be illegal.
According to The Register
Such a scheme breaks rank with the country’s own government’s view and that of the wider EU but, according to the figures, would seem to make eminent sense.
The Register highlights a study by Professor Terry Fisher of the Harvard Law School's Berkman Center, which showed that, in the US, levying $5 on broadband users would compensate the music industry for up to 20% of its annual revenue.
This would seem generous given that the latest figures from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, show that digital music sales currently account for only 6 percent of total recorded-music sales.
The music industry’s worst nightmare is seeing the Internet cutting them out of business altogether, as artists turn to the Internet to do their own distribution and promotion, already typified by the success of UK band the Arctic Monkeys.
But get the pricing right, and give consumer’s fair use of the song’s that they have downloaded and the music industry still has the opportunity to create a thriving online market.