Music Industry Proposes a Piracy Surcharge on ISPs

From today’s edition of Wired (a digital news site):

“Having failed to stop piracy by suing internet users, the music industry is for the first time seriously considering a file sharing surcharge that internet service providers would collect from users.

“In recent months, some of the major labels have warmed to a pitch by Jim Griffin, one of the idea’s chief proponents, to seek an extra fee on broadband connections and to use the money to compensate rights holders for music that’s shared online. Griffin, who consults on digital strategy for three of the four majors, will argue his case at what promises to be a heated discussion Friday at South by Southwest.”

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Piracy of music recordings is a huge problem for musicians and record labels. As a musician and a label owner, I am certainly aware of that. No one knows the final outcome of the current fiasco, but past and current efforts of the large corporations in the industry, beginning with the absurd Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the multi-thousand dollar lawsuits of individual file sharers, and other repressive actions have only made matters worse.  This new proposal plans to tax internet service providers a suggested fee of $5 / month per user!  The resultant money – millions of dollars per month – to be divided among the corporate music entities by formulas sinmilar to what ASCAP, BMI, etc. now use to divide royalty payments.

Now, this proposed surcharge would not apply only to those who belong to peer-to-peer file sharing networks, but to all internet users.  Griffin and cohorts claim that 20% of internet users illegally download music files.  So here we have a double-whammy:  most of us do not illegally download music files, yet we would be forced to pay a minimum of $60 a year in fees to cover the supposedly “lost” royalties to the music inductry giants.  At the same time, those of us who attempt to make a living in the music business as small independent artists and labels will, as usual, not see a dime of the surcharge money, since it is the big cats who will be in charge of the distribution.

I would urge anyone affected by this outrageous proposal to keep close track of developments in the next few weeks. This seems just another bold agttempt by the big corporations to rope off music income to themselves.

About Peter Feldmann

Peter Feldmann has long been a musical mainstay in Santa Barbara and Southern California. Besides actively performing bluegrass and old time music with a variety of groups, Peter is also known as a bluegrass historian, collector, music consultant, teacher, and producer, both of live concerts and radio/tv programs throughout the area. His music has been heard in clubs, concerts, saloons, universities, pre-schools, at weddings, wakes, parties, barn-raisings, calf-ropings, rodeos, auctions, fund raisers, wine tastings and chili cook offs.

Peter founded Santa Barbara’s Old Time Fiddler’s Convention (1972), UCSB’s Old Time Music Front (1964), and The Bluebird Cafe (1971). Through these and other outlets, he was the first to bring many prominent folk, blues, and bluegrass artists, including Bill Monroe, Mance Lipscomb, The Stanley Brothers, The New Lost City Ramblers, Fred McDowell, Furry Lewis, Rose Maddox, the Balfa Brothers, and many others to the Santa Barbara area. Peter also helped others access the music by teaching privately, and in group classes for Santa Barbara Continuing Education, UCSB Extension, and McCabes Guitars. He was the first on the West Coast to produce and market instruction Lps – three on How To Play Country Fiddle, and one each on Clawhammer Banjo, and Maybelle Carter Style Guitar. He still presents lectures on country music history at UCSB, Santa Barbara area libraries, and for various interest groups, festival workshops, etc. In 2006, he presented his monograph titled “The Big bang Of Bluegrass Music” (describing the origins of bluegrass 1938 – 1946) to the worlds first International Music Symposium at the University of Kentucky at Bowling Green. He has also been very active in radio, television, and film work, producing weekly shows on country and bluegrass music over a 21 year period on various commercial and public stations. Peter currently maintains three music-related websites, a music blog, and an entertainment service company, “BlueGrass West!”, based in the Santa Ynez Valley in Southern California.

Peter performs tunes and songs from the heart of America’s musical treasure chest. His shows can include fiddle, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Well-known as a historian and teacher, Peter is first and foremost an entertainer, sharing his respect, energy and love for the music with his fellow musicians, friends, and audiences.

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