2019 American Music Awards

Editorial: Why ISP Licensing Won't Help The Music Business

"Voluntary collective licensing" (or "ISP licensing" or "blanket music licensing") has been promoted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and its fellow travelers as a way to legalize file sharing on unauthorized peer-to-peer networks while compensating artists and rights holders.

To understand what's wrong with this model, use your imagination.

Imagine that file sharing was suddenly lawful—but without Nielsen SoundScan or auditable royalty statements, just Internet service providers providing pretty good guesses about who's downloading or streaming what.

Imagine unregulated "nonprofit" entities that represent rights holders granting ISPs a covenant not to sue— lawyer-speak for, "I won't sue you yet."

Imagine file sharers on a participating ISP with the freedom to download or stream at will, without the ability to distinguish between authorized and unauthorized music.

Imagine how the rights holders and BitTorrents of the world would lay down together, make lots of money and live happily ever after.

This unlikely model has had an improbable resurgence in the form of Choruss, a proposed nonprofit organization seeking to add a fee to the tuition bills of American university students to cover their use of file-sharing networks and all other online sources of music, and then would distribute the fees back to participating rights holders. If it gains wide acceptance at universities, proponents say the concept could then be extended to ISPs.

But Choruss, and collective licensing in general, represent a trade-off rooted in desperation. It assumes it's impossible to compete with...

Click here for the full opinion piece which includes Castle's thoughts on why ISP licensing is out of step with trends between the creative community and ISPs in countries like the U.K., France and the U.S., what he considers to be a better solution and more.

Chris Castle, managing partner of Christian L. Castle, Attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco, represents clients on music technology and public policy issues.

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