SCAN_logoTight.jpeg BLOGARHYTHMS>>> Songwriters bid to legalize file sharing gets rewrite

Geist-48X68.jpgPosted by Michael Geist

In November 2007, the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) shocked the music industry and many Canadians by proposing the full legalization of music file sharing. The SAC proposal was based on the premise that file sharing was not going away, that lawsuits against file sharers do more harm than good, and that the continued emphasis on using digital locks to control copying has been a complete failure. In the view of thousands of Canadian songwriters, the better way forward was to encourage music sharing by monetizing it. The SAC proposal envisioned a levy (five dollars per month was floated as a possibility) that would be used to compensate creators for the sharing. In return, Canadians would be entitled to freely share music for non-commercial purposes.
The reaction to the SAC proposal was generally critical. The recording industry rejected it out-of-hand, arguing that it violated international copyright law. Consumer groups were also skeptical, noting that a mandatory universal levy would result in payments by non-music sharers, who would effectively subsidize those sharing music. Notwithstanding the criticism, the SAC persisted. My weekly technology law column notes that last week, it quietly unveiled a revised version of the proposal at a public forum on copyright in Toronto. The new version, which addresses many of these earlier criticisms, is far more promising and there are indications that the SAC may be joined by other creator organizations in pursuit of a legalization strategy.
The foundation of the proposal remains the same - the creation of a new right of remuneration for music file sharing in return for the consumer freedom to share an unlimited amount of music across all platforms including peer-to-peer networks, mobile devices, instant messaging, and even email. The SAC notes that downloading music for non-commercial purposes is arguably already lawful in Canada due to the private copying levy, but that its proposal would cover more broadly all music file sharing activities. The most important change to the SAC proposal is that it would now be voluntary for both creators and consumers. Click here to read more of Michael's post.

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