The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Fred von Lohmann is cautiously optimistic at the news that the record labels are considering offering a blanket license to college campuses that will legalize their students' file-swapping. Fred's glad to see the record-saurs finally declaring a truce in their war on the Internet. But, he warns, we have to make sure the universities and the artists are getting a fair deal for their money:
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...
So we are cautiously optimistic. There are lots of hard issues that will need to be addressed. How will a collective licensing approach protect user privacy? What will universities do to stop "leakage" to ISPs whose users have not opted in? Will independent artists get a fair shake from Choruss? But it sounds like the labels are, for the first time, interested in having the right discussion.
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