THE BLOG
05/09/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Day of Sharing

To Bono and John Mellencamp and all of my fellow musicians who moan about the sorry state of the music business: OK, enough already! You're missing the point. The solution is right under our noses.

That the recording industry is in the toilet is no surprise. I don't disagree with all the arguments about label greed and lack of vision, but this is an old story now and one that distracts from the real crisis and the solution. What kills me is these folks are supposed to be smart, industry professionals and they're running around like chickens with their heads cut off wondering what the "New Paradigm" will be. How is it that they don't see the solution?

Greg Sandoval reported in CNET Digital Media on March 24th 2009:

"AT&T, one of the nation's largest internet service providers, confirmed on Tuesday the company is working with the recording industry to combat illegal file sharing. At a digital music conference in Nashville, Jim Cicconi, a senior executive for AT&T told the audience that the ISP has begun issuing takedown notices to people accused of pirating music by the Recording Industry Association of America...."

Un-fucking-believable. The CEOs of the world's ISPs are brilliant. Making billions on our entertainment and not paying a dime for it, they bring new meaning to the word obfuscate. It's the perfect crime. This guy Cicconi is playing a shell game with the public and the future of the entertainment industry; a subterfuge of the highest order that consists of a diversion of attention from the real issue. The real issue is that content providers aren't getting paid for their work.

The artists, writers, publishers and producers of all that wonderful music and programming on the Internet are going broke. The word "shared" in this context is as fine a piece of language re-definition as I have heard in my life, a masterful bit of re-branding.

If this is the new definition of "sharing," then I and some of my fellow artists propose that November 27th, 2009, be the official Day of Sharing. Every single person all over the world -- no matter where you live, what you do for a living, what your hobbies are -- now has the right to acquire anything he/she wants from any store, restaurant, car dealership or similar commercial establishment without a single penny changing hands. You want to share, then let's really share.

There is now an entire generation that has grown into adulthood believing that art should be free on the Internet. I have no problem with this idea. Let everyone enjoy the fruits of our labor, but when someone is getting paid, and it's not the people who are actually doing the work, and instead it's the folks who own the delivery system, then this is a big problem. But I don't think the problem is insurmountable. Sure, the ISPs deserve a share, but as it stands now, they're getting it all. As in every industry, labor needs to be paid or eventually production comes to a grinding halt. Labor has the right to be paid, but suing consumers will never accomplish that. Since Internet subscribers are already paying a handsome sum for their monthly DSL/cable/phone bills, the money is already available to pay for the content.

Follow the money and you'll see it's going to the ISPs! Check this out:

With 91 million subscribers in the USA alone paying (for sake of argument and based on Pew Research figures from June, 2005) $38.00 a month for DSL service, here's a simple example to help grasp the enormity of the profit received by the ISPs.

91,000,000 subscribers X
$38.00 per month fees =
$3,458,000,000.

Multiply that number ($3,458,000,000) by 12 months and there has been $41,496,000,000 generated for the ISPs. That's a lot of money -- 41 and a half billion dollars -- and I didn't even factor in cell phone fees, which is where most music downloads travel to in ring tones for a separate price.

How much would need to be added to this bill to pay for the content? Two dollars? Five dollars? Then just go ahead and give it all away. Let folks download what ever they want. Everyone is anyway and you'll never get the toothpaste back in the tube. Go to the source. It's the ISPs. It's time to sort this mess out and this is the way to do it.

I'm not saying it will be easy. It won't be. It will take unprecedented action from the government. This will require new federal laws and regulations. AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cox, Dish Network, Bell Systems et al are international mega corporations with lobbying armies and huge war chests. They will not part with a share of the pie with out being forced to do so. But force them we must. There is no other way to resolve this problem. DRM and record company policing will never find a way out of this. That's a joke that's not really funny.

Artists and content providers must join together to man up in an unprecedented way if they want to survive. Congress will need to mandate fees that pay for these rights directly from ISP fees. There is no other way this will work. A formula can be devised to distribute according to usage. (The idea that the ISPs are going to help police illegal downloads is a surrealist version of the fox guarding the hen house.)

Our neighbors in Canada are way ahead of us on this effort. They have put together a well-considered solution that is now working its way through the Canadian courts and should be adopted as a model for us. Kudos to them.
Also from their web site:

"This is a pipe dream! It'll never happen. That's what many of his fellow writers told Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais (author of "The Barber of Seville" and "The Marriage of Figaro") before he wrested ownership of his plays from the hands of the theatre production companies. By finessing Author's Rights into law in France in 1793, Beaumarchais established the simple but profound principle that creators have inherent ownership and moral rights in their creations. This idea is at the very heart of copyright. Beaumarchais' "pipe dream" became reality around the world!"