Music Industry Considering New Model

As Penn Staters PC users at Penn State have free access to Ruckus, a “completely legal and advertising supported music service geared exclusively to the college community.” Tracks downloaded from Ruckus use Microsoft’s DRM technology, so they aren’t compatible with iPods. In short, the Ruckus program doesn’t fill the music needs of many students. [ed. Looks like someones argumentative skills haven’t improved through ENGL 30…]

The Electric Frontier Foundation posted a plan that, if realized, would be a game changer.

Read the story after the jump.

Here’s what we know so far. Apparently Warner Music opened this discussion with universities some months ago. There is no concrete plan yet, but EMI and Sony-BMG are apparently open to the general idea (leaving Universal Music as the hold-out, which is no surprise, given their reputation as the most backward of the major labels). It’s not clear whether or to what extent independent labels have been involved. And the project has a name—Choruss. The chief negotiator for Warner appears to be Jim Griffin, who is a long-time advocate of collective licensing (and member of EFF’s advisory board).

Universities would pay Choruss, a new nonprofit collecting society, in exchange for an end to the “John Doe” subpoenas seeking student identities, DMCA notices, lawsuits against students, and legislation mandating copyright surveillance of campus networks. Students who pay will be free to download whatever they like, using whatever software they like, in whatever format they like (and presumably keep it all when they graduate, since there would be no way to claw back DRM-free MP3s). The monies collected would be divided up among artists and rightsholders, based on relative popularity. The rest of the details are still to be determined, including whether it would be a mandatory fee for all students, or an opt-in fee (complete with continued lawsuits for those who fail to pay?). It’s also not clear what the fee would be, although those familiar with the talks suggest less than $5 per student per month.

EFF has been pushing for a voluntary collective licensing solution for P2P music file sharing for over five years. And we’ve noted as well that this approach makes much more sense for universities than the current “sue – surveil – expel” approach urged by the recording industry. So the news that Warner Music has begun discussing this approach is music to our ears.

This would be awesome. Just straight up, pure, unadulterated awesome. Hopefully this solution would satisfy President Spanier, who has been an advocate for more stringent monitoring of illegal file transfers by universities. He even submitted a report to the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property about peer to peer piracy on university campuses.

This plan runs parallel to the rumor that Apple is going to institute a subscription plan for iTunes. Imagine if these two ideas turned out to be one and the same… thank goodness for technology, right?

[HT: BoingBoing]

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