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Fritz Hollings Leads Senators Supporting “Policeware” Software That Will Rat You Out For Having MP3s Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 April 2002
Senator Fritz Hollings (Democrat - South Carolina) is leading a bi-partisan effort in congress to make computer manufacturers install software called “policeware” that will automatically squeal on consumers for saving and or downloading illegal copyrighted material. Co-sponsors on the bill S. 2048 include: Ted Stevens (Republican – Alaska) Daniel Inouye (Democrat – Hawaii) John Breaux (Democrat – Louisiana) Bill Nelson (Democrat – Florida) and Dianne Feinstein (Democrat – California). For the many millions of Americans that rip and swap MP3 files on-line, the penalties for getting caught range from fines as high as $500,000 to five years in prison. However, there is little mention of ways to determine which MP3 files were ripped from your CD collection versus ones downloaded from a legal or illegal source.
A press spokesperson for Dianne Feinstein admitted that this legislation has little chance of passing both the Senate and or the House. According to them, it was designed to be a wakeup call to those pirating software and copyrighted material. This anti-technology and anti-piracy stance is the party line from Hillary Rosen at the RIAA. Little is said about the fact that the RIAA was the power behind the music industry agreeing to “Fair Use” royalties (about 10 years ago) being paid from the sale of music to offset losses incurred from consumers recording copies of pre-recorded music that they have bought. Some sources say that the royalty is as high as one dollar per disc but that could not be confirmed. The music industry seems to be reneging on their deal with the consumers and clearly core clientele aren’t happy – especially the high school and college age Gen-Y music fans who make up a large portion of the sales of new music.

Solutions to the problems that Hillary Rosen and these members of congress are preaching about are more simple than they think. To date, there is no pay-per-download system that can compete with the once almighty Napster, although AOL-Time Warner (one of the big five major music conglomerates) just hired former AM-FM broadcasting CEO, Jimmy Di Castro to head the content department of AOL. Count on AOL radio being revamped but don’t be surprised if AOL has a heavy duty music download option available to its subscribers. BMG, another of the big five media conglomerates, is not to be ignored with their public overtures to buy out the remaining interests in Napster and relaunch that music downloading system with what is left of the reportedly 50,000,000 users powered by legal and pay-per-download BMG catalog music.

The simple fact is that congress can’t stop downloadable music no matter how much invasive legislation they pass. They can anger and insult their constituency while at the same time brown nosing to the media conglomerates who line their pockets with campaign cash. The marketplace has proven that consumers are willing to pay for quality content on the internet in 2002 as proven by subscription rates at AOL and pay subscriptions for the Wall Street Journal On-line. Dating sites like Match.com have seen 70 plus percent increases in subscribers since Q3 2001 with fees as high as $25 per month. If a service works and makes your life better or more enjoyable, people are willing to pay for it. Now the challenge for the music industry is how they can harness revenue and marketing powers relating to downloadable music to make it a tool like no other for the industry before they alienate an entire generation of buyers to the point where they give up on buying pre-recorded music.

Perhaps we are being optimistic in our hopes for the RIAA and the music industry because just over a year ago they (with the late exception of BMG) took the “we will break it before we will let you have it” mentality towards Napster. The result was a huge rise in usage on the peer to peer downloading network, Gnutella. The big five need to agree and make a compelling and wide reaching downloadable music site that has everything including fast downloads and high quality MP3 rips available to its subscribers and stop making copy protected CDs that fly in the face of the Fair Use agreements.

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