Can a 'Day of Sharing' save the music industry?
Composer Richard Gibbs's idea aims to highlight the problem of illegal music file-sharing.
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Apple has said that it will remove by April anti-copying restrictions, known as digital rights management, or DRM, from iTunes songs and allow record companies to set a range of prices for them. Currently, iTunes consumers pay 99 cents per song, but encoding prevents them from copying the song more than six times. The new policy allows customers to transfer music to non-Apple music devices like MP3 players, computers, and phones.Skip to next paragraph
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DRM has been widely seen as ineffective, even a strong disincentive for people who would pay for music online.
Legal single-track downloads totaled 1.1 billion in 2008, up 27 percent from 2007, according to IFPI. These figures suggest that consumers are willing to pay for digital music downloads.
But the iTunes model won't really work without meaningful enforcement of piracy laws, says Gibbs. Another solution, he says, would be for ISPs to pay a flat fee per subscriber into a fund, which could then be apportioned to copyright holders according to the number of downloads or streams of each song.
The RIAA has begun working with ISPs as an alternative to its recently abandoned strategy of suing individual file-sharers, according to Kevin Parks, a copyright attorney at Leydig, Voit, and Mayer Ltd. in Chicago.
File sharing violates intellectual property statutes and eliminates an important stream of revenue for composers, artists, and musicians, says Tom Lee, president of the American Federation of Musicians. "Richard's proposal would place the matter right in front of the American public. Perhaps then, those who choose to illegally download would understand its damaging impact on those in the artistic, creative community that is vital to our society."
More than a stunt
Not everyone is enamored with Gibbs's idea. He may be treading on dicey legal ground by encouraging larceny. But if Gibbs wants to draw attention to his cause, getting arrested may actually be a good result for him, says David Fagundes, a professor of law at Southwestern School of Law in Los Angeles.
Others suggest that the tactic is out of touch with reality. "Students just don't see file sharing as stealing," says Michal Strahelevitz, a professor of marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
Students make a distinction between common thievery and file-swapping, she says. "They are not walking into a store and taking something physical out without paying for it," she says. "So it doesn't feel like a crime to them."
Which, of course, is the point of "The Day of Sharing" – to argue that free file-sharing is stealing.
To many, the way forward still looks murky. Music labels have been unsuccessful in stopping downloading with lawsuits, notes Berklee's Mr. Gorder, adding, "The genie is already out of the bottle."
"The busiest shopping day of the year should provide many opportunities for 'sharing.' "