Less Than an Imported Pint

Posted on

Is $5 a month too much to legalize downloading? According to a few of my friends, yup it sure is.

We've been following the Songwriters Association of Canada proposal for ISPs to charge a few bucks in exchange for legal downloading, thus solving the problem that people have been arguing about since P2P reared its head. If the Federal government approves the proposal, it would mean there's no more need for iTunes and Limewire would no longer be a secret shame that families brush under the carpet.

Except lots of people think it isn't fair.

"Why should I have to pay more because other people download?" One of my friends asked. "I don't download illegally. Why should I be punished for the actions of others?"

I pointed out that we pay a little tariff when we buy blank CDs for this very reason, but my friend insisted that she should not have to pay for something she doesn't use. Fair enough, but I surveyed my bills and pondered some monetary aspects of my life...

  • My cell phone provider has a mandatory 911 access fee although I've never dialed 911 on my cell phone.
  • A ticket agency charged me a fee to cover the cost of postage despite the fact that I picked my tickets up in person.
  • My phone company charges me for Call Waiting despite the fact that I can't for the life of me figure out how to click over to the second line and have asked them repeatedly to remove it.
  • My regular lunch place charges me for the same for my sandwich despite me not having condiments or half the ingredients.
I'm not arguing that SAC's plan is the perfect one. And I'm not sure what the basis is for the $5 fee is anymore than I'm sure how iTunes came up with its download fees. But it's an interesting idea and one that brings a whole other level to this discussion.

Like... we largely don't pay for TV per episode. We pay a monthly access fee to our cable providers and get to watch unlimited episodes from channels in the packages we subscribe to. If you don't watch TV, you don't have to get cable. You can otherwise subscribe to the package you want. What if downloading worked the same way? Instead of paying for a song or an album, you pay a monthly fee to have limited downloads or subscribe to a more expensive package for more downloads.

Of course, there are even more questions here. Who would collect the money? How would it be doled out? How much would it be? What privacy concerns arise? How would the industry track sales?

I believe that artists deserve to be compensated for the work they produce.  And I'm fascinated by all the possible ways that can happen and the arguments over how to monetize these systems.

What do you think is fair?


Read more news