UK Set to "License” Illegal Downloading for a Fee

UK Set to "License” Illegal Downloading for a Fee
The UK has announced plans to combat music piracy, which includes a £30-a-year ($60 CAD) levy on ISP bills of customers who want to download music.

Details are unclear at this point, but the idea seems to be that a customer could opt to pay the levy to their ISP, and by doing so be exempt from any prosecution for downloading copyrighted music. The fees would then be distributed amongst "artists" based on their popularity, much the same way radio play fees work now.

It seems a realistic approach — all this downloading can hardly be stopped — and was championed as such by Peter Jenner, manager of Billy Bragg and long-time proponent of the levy. "If you can get enough people paying a small enough amount of money you can turn around the wheels of the music industry.” In addition, the levy would end the charade of millions of ordinary people being "criminals” for "stealing” music.

ISPs are also planning to send out 12,000 letters to heavy downloaders in an attempt to guilt them into stopping, and the government is considering France's "three strikes" policy of disconnecting illegal downloaders after two warnings.

All of this is still pretty early in the game — the UK government has repeatedly said it would like ISPs and labels to sort this out, rather than intervening — but if the levy does get adopted, don’t be surprised if it catches on in other countries. I mean, the music industry has never been known to refuse free money, and it’s unlikely it will resist the tantalising offer of 30 quid from every ISP user.