[p2p-research] Why p2p internet music funding proposals make no sense

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Tue Nov 3 06:45:37 CET 2009

On Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 12:05 PM, Paul D. Fernhout <
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:

> Something I wrote today to someone else, but thought I'd post here.
> It is common in some countries to have a tax on media or internet to fund
> musicians. It's been proposed in other countries, even for the USA.

Can you name a single country where this is actually the case?

> Example:
> http://web.archive.org/web/20050403182528/notabug.com/2002/acs/
> """
> This is the proposal that most seem to agree on and that best solves all
> the known issues.
>  People with broadband Internet connections pay an extra $3-$5 on their
> bill (the amount is calculated by determining how much money is lost by
> Internet downloads and dividing it by the number of Internet connections),
> which is given to the operators of the system ("MiniPay"). (Optionally, a
> similar charge can be added to other Internet connections, blank media,
> burners, computers, etc.) In return, they receive a "blinded signature
> token" that allows them to tell MiniPay what they're listening to without
> cheating (the token can only be used once) and without knowing who submitted
> it (the ISP was "blinded" when it gave it out, so they don't which they gave
> to who). The token is sent to them automatically and electronically and is
> held onto by their MP3 player (e.g. iTunes).
>  Copyright holders, when creating new songs and movies, submit a copy to
> MiniPay. MiniPay uses an audio/video "fingerprinting" technology to
> calculate a short number which identifies the song. They store this with
> information about the copyright holder, so they know who to distribute
> payments to later.
>  Now people surf the Internet, downloading whatever songs they like,
> however they like, and listening to them. Their MP3 player keeps track of
> how many times they listen to each song (identified by using the same
> fingerprinting technology as MiniPay). If they use portable devices, the
> devices keep track and submit the information back to the MP3 player. If
> multiple computers share an Internet connection, the computers also share
> playcount data. At the end of the month, the computer collects all the data
> and anonymously submits it to MiniPay with the token.
>  MiniPay divides up however much the token is worth (the $3-$5 charge less
> operating expenses) in proportion to how much each song is played. Then it
> looks at who holds the copyright to each song and deposits the money in
> their account.
> """
> OK, give up some money to musicians, that's OK with me.
> Give up privacy as to what is listened to? Very questionable that
> "anonymous blinded tokens" would really be such. Probably various ways to
> game that system with stuffing the ballot boxes somehow (mentioned later in
> the page, I see.)
> How do you attribute value to mashups? What of using music in products?
> What about chilling effects in making similar things? Some deep issues left
> unaddressed. Some say Jazz could never have been created today, with people
> learning from each other and building on each other. The chilling effects of
> copyright would prevent it. Most musicians (the 99%+ who never see the big
> bucks) lose out from strong copyright because they can't build on each
> others works the way the old time Jazz musicians could.
> Besides, that is just about music. What about software, news, videos,
> contributions to blogs or comments? Running a web site? And so on?
> What about compensating people for making the decision about what musicians
> to compensate (playing a music critic role)? Why draw an arbitrary line to
> one type of activity, making original music, and then ignore every other
> positive contribution people make to the public good in other ways?
> Let's say the proposal quoted above was tried. There are 300 million people
> in the USA, and *all* pay US$5 for a connection, that's US$1.5 billion a
> month, or US$18 billion a year. How much would go for overhead? That's
> probably only US$10 billion to artists.
> The US government budget is now about US$3 trillion.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_budget
> The computer sales industry globally is hundreds of billions of dollars or
> more.
> US$10 billion a year is nothing. It is the tail wagging the dog, or even
> the flea wagging the tail, with all the power media executives have had over
> Congress.
> Why not just pay US$10 billion out of general tax revenue as grants to
> people who want to make free stuff? That was done during the 1930s Great
> Depression. It paid for a lot of art, photography, recordings, and music,
> some of it public domain.
> But then everyone will want that support. So, give it to everyone who asks.
> What does a musician care if other people get paid to freeload if they get
> supported enough to do their own art? Then we are back to a basic income.
> Besides, is, say, caring for your sister's kid or your sick Mom any less
> freeloading than making music for the internet? There are lots of implicit
> assumptions about what is worthwhile here...
> Let's examine a basic income in the USA.
> About one third of the US GDP of $14.4 trillion could be allocated to a
> basic income, money coming from general taxes, leasing goverment land and
> spectrum and other public assets like fishing rights, import/export tariffs,
> sin taxes (like a US$400 per barrel tax on oil and other carbon sources),
> and putting money directly into circulation instead of banks creating it via
> fractional reserve debt.
> So, that would be about US$5 trillion / 300 million, which is about US$1400
> a month per person, which could replace unemployment, public schools, social
> security, and so on. With full health insurance thrown in for US$200 a month
> per person no exceptions (low overhead with single payer plus lots less
> stress and more free time to help peers be healthy), we reduce this to
> US$1200 a month cash and free-to-the-user comprehensive health care.
> And there is still 2/3 of the GDP for people to compete for if they really
> think competition is a good way to run a society. So, about US$10 trillion a
> year of the US economy is paid through labor or interest on capital.
> Seems a lot more straightforward than inventing tokens and popularity
> horseraces and so on just for music, and then maybe doing the same for news,
> websites, youtube videos, free software etc..
> It's true that open source, as a public good, is providing lots of value
> but getting not enough funding, so this proposal would help fix that without
> requiring Google and other big companies to fund it all:
>  "Open source: Big value, not big money"
>  http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10387512-16.html
>  "Google: The open-source savior we deserve"
>  http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10388101-16.html
> Also, why should a musician get compensated on current airplay when their
> stuff might only be popular in ten years, or even a hundred years, after
> they are dead? Lots of assumptions there...
> Could a US musician live on US$1200 a month per person in his/her family
> (with full medical care) and devote himself/herself full time to music?
> Well, let's say he/she has a spouse and two kids. So, he'd/she'd be living
> on US$4800 a month, which is about the median US income. He/she might
> homeschool so as to not have to pay tuition to private school for his kids.
> He/she could devote a lot of time to his music, and maybe his/her spouse
> could devote time to making free software. It's not living high on the hog
> to live off of US$57K a year and homeschool two kids, but no doubt they
> could scrape by. They would only need one car, or might choose to live
> somewhere they did not need a car at all (it's not like there is a daily
> commute to "work" or "school").
> Note, even "millionaires" might be better off under this plan:
> "[p2p-research] Basic income from a millionaire's perspective?"
> http://listcultures.org/pipermail/p2presearch_listcultures.org/2009-August/003949.html
> The current system makes no sense. This sort of music fee is a
> half-measure, from a narrow point of view. It's like when labor unions
> create their own private welfare state in a big company and let the rest of
> the people in the country who are unemployed twist in the wind, while person
> by person jobs are lost to automation or competition, as happened in
> Detroit. Media taxes try to be a middle ground, but when an ice flow is
> splitting in two, being in the middle may just get you dumped in cold water.
> :-)
> --Paul Fernhout
> http://www.pdfernhout.net/
> http://www.beyondajoblessrecovery.org/
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