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Music Industry considers ISP piracy surcharge

The giants of the music industry are looking at the possibility of asking internet service providers to add a file sharing surcharge on broadband connections in an attempt to curtail internet piracy according to a report in Wired.

Digital-strategy consultant Jim Griffin proposes that ISPs should be made to collect a music surcharge from broadband users to compensate copyright holders. The charge would be around $5 per month. This money would then be pooled and shared out by a collection agency between songwriters, performers, publishers and music labels.

"It's monetizing the anarchy," the head of the International Music Manager's Forum Peter Jenner told Wired. Music sales in the U.S. fell by over $4 billion dollars between 1999 and 2006 and major labels have been pointing the finger at online piracy.

So far the music industry's response to the file sharing phenomenon has been far from impressive, conjuring up images of the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dam. The futility of trying to prosecute anonymous file sharing on peer-to-peer networks was illustrated back in 2005 when the RIAA tried to prosecute an already deceased 83 year old grandmother. Nice one chaps.

The debate over payment for music is set to get heated on Friday at SXSW during the conference Mobility, Ubiquity and Monetizing Music. Earlier this year U2 manager Paul McGuinness said that the moment had arrived for ISPs to be held responsible for illegal file sharing. Speaking at the January 2008 MIDEM in Cannes Mc Guinness said, "If ISPs do not cooperate voluntarily there will need to be legislation to force them to cooperate." This strategy has already been adopted in France.

Music thought crime is not far away it seems. What next? A charge on humming a tune in your head as you walk down the road?  A £5 charge if you even think about Bono? In the words of a real musician: "File sharing is our radio; that's the way people hear our stuff."

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