I’m often hard on the RIAA. I don’t like the
amount of political power they have in DC and at the state level. That said, I do believe in their right to
protect theintellectual property of their members.
There are laws in place that allow them to sue in civil court for damages. There are laws on the books that allow
the government to pursue criminal charges. I don’t agree with all the elements of these laws, and I am absolutely
against the introduction of any new laws, but the laws in place are there and as such, the RIAA has the right
to see them applied.
Music has value. Absolutely no question about it. Music sales are a source of income that its creators have every
right to earn. It’s because of this value and the income opportunity that the RIAA’s members pay it what amounts to
millions of dollars per year. It’s that money that has allowed the RIAA to file about 10,300 lawsuits since September
I have no problem with that at all.
Unfortunately, the payments by the RIAA member labels don’t pay for the entire expense of enforcing copyright law
lawsuits. For every law passed, there is a cost to get from concept to adoption. For every lawsuit filed, there
is a cost to the municipality, state or federal district where the lawsuit is filed. Tax monies, whetherthey
are local, state or federal pay for those costs. As they should.
The missing link here is the source of the tax money.
We pay property taxes. We pay use taxes. We pay sales tax. We pay income taxes. Beyond taxes, we pay fees. We pay
a fee for our drivers license, our passport, and I don’t know how many other fees that go from our bank accounts to
every level of government. In exchange we get some level of service that enable our public servants to protect, honor
and serve and to support our system.
I don’t like the idea that my tax money goes to subsidize the
10,300 lawsuits the RIAA has filed
since Sept of 2003.How much moneydoes it take from taxpayers to pay for the courts side of the
lawsuits? I’m guessing, but with all the administrative people and lawyers involved, judges, their clerks, overhead,
and who knowswhat else is involved. Is20,000 dollars per lawsuit too high or too low? Could it be 100k
dollars each? I don’t know.
At 20k per lawsuit in top to bottom court costs, that’s more than 200 MILLION DOLLARS in taxpayer money paying for
Then there of course is all the cost associated with the
international efforts the RIAAhas pushed the
government to support and fulfill. Who knows how many millions that adds up to.
Why are every day taxpayers having to foot this huge bill? It’s not like our government is running at a surplus.
In the big wish list of unfunded liabilities our lawmakers have undertaken,I can think of a whole lot of things
that fall above protecting music copyrights.
Unless of course, music copyright holders pay for that unfunded liability.
Which is exactly what should happen.
If copyright holders, of which I am one, want our copyrights protected to the full extent that our government can
offer, we should be taxed for each one ofour copyrights. We should pay for those hundreds of millions of
dollars in costs since we directly benefit from those services.
Somewhere there will hopefully be a smart politician who reads this and quickly introduces a copyright tax.
From where I sit there are two types of copyrights: Commercial and Non-Commercial. Those copyrights you as a
creator think will make money, and those you think won’t.
For non-commercial works, works the creator wants protected and wants to retain the right to use, the courts in
case of an infringement, charge them $100 per year. Because this could be a lot of money for many artists, the
tax could be structured so that the song doesn’t have to be registered and paid for 18 months. Remember, if you don’t
pay, the only thing you are giving up is the right to register the work in a nataional database and to sue in civil
court. So you can own and exploit the copyright forever without paying anything.
For commercial copyrights, charge the copyright OWNER $750 per year (RIAA President Sherman says direct copyright
infringement carries a minimum penalty of $750 per work infringed)to retain the right to use the courts in case
of infringement and to fund the actions of the government in criminal charges andinternational actionsfor
the various types of copyright infringement.
(A note here, I’m sure there are a ton of legal issues here, but I’m sure there are lawyers who will offer the
solutions via comments)
Both could be registered in a database and tracked much like we do patents.
At any point in time, a copyright owner could switch from one status to the other.
The fee is annual.
In the event that the fee is not paid for a period of 1 year, the work can become part of the
creative commons license, you can offer it to the public domain, or you can
just keep it and do with it asyou see fit, but the work is not registered in the national database. As
such,you relinquish the rights associated with being in the list,starting with theright to sue in
civil courts for copyright infringement.
This works because it is based on a very simple concept. The RIAA thinks that $750 is what their members songs are
worth for direct copyright infringement. If as a music copyright owner, you don’t think its worth $750 bucks a year,
then it’s probably not really a commercial work.
A key reasonwhy this has a chance of becoming reality, is not only because it raises the money necessary to
fund protections against copyright infringement, but also becausethis could be the best thing that ever
happened tomusicians whose work is being buried inside a label’s vaults.
More than amillions commercial works are not owned by individuals, they are owned by music labels and other
corporate entities.Most RIAA members. Having a $750 annual tax on a song could create a movement that would
force the label to either monetize the song quickly, or return those it can’t or won’t monetize to its originator, or
their designee. Theycan then chose how to define the work and which tax to pay.
After all, if a song isn’t worth $750 bucks a year, why should it benefit from the hundreds of millions of dollars
in taxpayer money being spent to protect it?
With the 500mm dollars or more that could be raised annually, the RIAA, and every single taxpaying copyright owner
would have every right to expect and demand that they receive the fullest protection of the law, but it wouldn’t be
at the expense of more important taxpayer funded services.
I understand that thiscould make music more expensive. I would rather have more expensive music then either
higher taxes or tax money being spent on copyright protection rather than more essential services.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it at least till someone comes up with a better idea.